The THRIVE Project, Abbotsford


A new pilot project at Abbotsford, the home of Sir Walter Scott, near Melrose, is supporting local people who have been affected by the pandemic. Focussing on wellbeing, employability and improved mental health, for those in rural communities, the THRIVE project ran from April until the end of June 2022. Working in partnership with the Local Area Co-ordination (LAC) – Mental Health team at Scottish Borders Council, the THRIVE project was aimed at adults who have engaged with the service to participate in weekly group activities on site at Abbotsford. The LAC team support adults who have acknowledged mental health difficulties that are affecting their quality of life.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdowns which followed proved to be an incredibly tough time for individuals who were struggling with their mental health. By receiving funding for the scheme, Abbotsford has been able to give back to those in the local community in a way they would not have otherwise been able to.

The THRIVE project was led by Mary Kenny, Heritage Engagement Officer at Abbotsford, with support from the Local Area Co-ordination team, Abbotsford staff and a small group of Abbotsford volunteers who are assisting with the project. The project was funded by the Scottish Borders Council Build Back a Better Borders Recovery Fund.

The project involved group activities that took place each week at Abbotsford in six-week blocks, with three places available to participants per block. The group focused on a different department each week, giving participants an insight into each work area and hands-on experience through a range of taster activities. These activities were developed in collaboration with staff and included hands-on practical activities in the gardens and estate, front-of-house activities in the historic house and visitor centre, ‘behind the scenes’ activities such as digital marketing and visitor interpretation and creative and storytelling activities.

It gave participants the opportunity to improve their physical and mental health and develop life skills, including communication skills and timekeeping; building structure and focus into their week; gaining an insight into their own local heritage and jobs in the tourism sector; and gaining experience of short-term volunteering in preparation for a longer-term volunteering opportunity at Abbotsford or elsewhere.