Norfolk outdoor therapy centre opens its doors
A Christian outdoor therapy centre in South Norfolk featuring goats, chickens and rabbits has just thrown open its doors, using creation to improve the physical, mental and emotional well-being of visitors.
The dream for GUL (God-Unlimited) Norfolk began when Rod and Michelle Smith from Mulbarton first visited the main GUL centre in Shrewton, Wiltshire five years ago, where Dr Celia Grummitt and her team now have over 150 beneficiaries visiting each week for outdoor therapy with horses and horticulture, orienteering and other outdoor activities.
At the Shrewton centre there have been some incredible testimonies of healing including the five-year-old boy with autism who spoke his first words on the back of a horse. This is just one of many lives touched and conditions helped at the centre, which range from children and adults with various anxieties, depression, OCD, self-harm, PTSD, low self-confidence, Chronic Fatigue, to name just a few.
Michelle and Rod visited the Wiltshire centre several times and each time became more enthusiastic about a centre being birthed in Norfolk. So, Michelle tried for over a year to get Norfolk horse owners onboard and although some showed great enthusiasm, they couldn’t do it for various reasons.
Then came the Covid-19 lockdown and during this time Michelle and Rod were praying and asking God what they could do with what they had in their hands, just like the little boy gave his loaves and fishes to feed the five thousand. They realised that with their large garden, they could house some goats, chickens and rabbits and so the journey began.
Michelle had read Dr Celia’s book called Horses and Human Health, which explains that the principles around horse therapy can also be applied to other animals, horticulture and other outdoor activities. After several further conversations with Dr Celia, Rod and Michelle began weekly online training.
They prepared their garden, converting half of their garage into a goat shed, creating a large section of their garden into a pen and bought four Anglo Nubian nanny kids who at two and three weeks old required four bottle feeds daily (that’s 16 bottles a day) and lots of love and attention.
Michelle said: “Glory, Grace, Joy and Angel are now four months old. They love having cuddles, being brushed, going for walks and doing trick and agility training. They are at their happiest when humans are in their pen, they even enjoy sitting at your feet listening to a story or two.
“The next job was to make a chicken run and get a coop, etc. A few weeks later, Henry, Boo and their six chicks arrived. They are Seramas, the smallest breed of Bantams which have a reputation for being great pets and love human interaction.
“The Summer House has been prepared for craft and fun activities and wet weather plans are in place for rainy days,” she said.
As well as offering therapy on a one-to-one basis, Rod and Michelle look forward to inviting small groups (up to four people) to enjoy time with the chickens, goats and time in the garden, planting, weeding, helping with new projects and maintaining existing ones.
There are opportunities to earn certificates and rosettes for things such as goat care, trick training, chicken care, planting, weeding and more.
The vision extends to visiting schools, care homes, hospices and hospitals where the goats, chickens and rabbits can be enjoyed by those who may miss their own pets and benefit from stroking, brushing, holding and interacting with them.
There are currently opportunities for family fun sessions and soon goat walking, picnics and more will be available.
They have already brightened the day for those in and around the village who have visited the centre or met the goats out for walks. One boy who came to visit was afraid of goats on arrival but after beginning with feeding them willow leaves outside the pen, then bravely entering to give them a brush he went home with a big smile on his face, having asked his daddy to take a photo of him with his new friend Glory.
Volunteers are welcome and if you like the outdoors and would enjoy spending time helping the with the garden, animals and/or chickens then please do contact them.
You can find the project on Facebook, GUL Norfolk group and the main GUL website www.god-unlimited.org
For further information on therapy sessions, visits to schools, etc. please contact our main office on 01980 621712 or email
firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Prices are available on request.
Pictured top are Michelle and Rod Smith, on the left, with some of the goats and, above some of the chickens at GUL Norfolk.