God Unlimited Outdoor Therapy or Gul, is a registered charity providing therapeutic activities in an outdoor setting. Gul's primary provision is Equine Assisted Therapy (using horses and associated activities to improve well-being) but also includes outdoor education, navigation, work placements, apprenticeships, gardening and more.
The charity was founded in 2003 by a small church community, putting into practice what they had always believed, that being outside is good for a person and that, with vision and support, Gul can change the lives of individuals who are isolated and vulnerable. While the charity was founded by passionate Christians and named as such, Gul has always been open to all, regardless of faith or background.
Gul operates from its 19 acre stable yard and woodland (Riverside) in Shrewton, Wiltshire (near Stonehenge), and provides services to Hampshire, Wiltshire and Dorset. The charity also maintains another site in Shrewton, The Bustard, as well as supporting two partner sites, Gul Hampshire and Gul Wales.
Since 2006 Gul’s core project has centred on the provision of outdoor activities, principally equine assisted therapy and outdoor learning for groups of disadvantaged individuals. Central to this is the belief that being outdoors and away from modern distractions is good for people.
Over time Gul has developed its provision to be youth focused and now works alongside 20 educational establishments of all age groups and Wiltshire Council’s young people departments to offer complimentary services for those who are struggling in, or not attending, mainstream education. Users generally attend Gul for at least one academic term and no longer than 6 terms. The individual's progress towards set goals is reviewed every 6 weeks and changes made to provision as needed, with the aim of re-engagement with education or employment.
Users are typically referred to Gul via 3 channels; through their educational provider, by a parent or guardian, or via organisations such as the NHS or local councils. Gul offers users a package of activities designed by a trained clinician at an assessment. Beneficiaries attend Gul for sessions ranging from 15 minutes to full days, working with a therapist or staff member individually or in groups depending on need.
Each week 150 users access Gul’s provision with 121 of these being young people aged 6-18, the rest adults and volunteers. A typical beneficiary stays with Gul for a full academic year, and because approximately 30% of individuals change each term, in real terms Gul’s therapy directly benefits an estimated 155 individuals each academic year. As Gul’s therapies also provide support and relief to families and support networks surrounding the individual, Gul the charity estimates that it indirectly benefits 465 individuals with its therapy programmes from its Riverside location. In addition, Gul assists 128 individuals attending volunteer positions or activities at Riverside bringing the total number of individuals receiving a positive benefit from the charity at 876 each year.
In 2017, Gul provided 6517 hours of equine assisted therapy from its Riverside site. During this time those attending were awarded 141 nationally recognised horse riding and navigation awards, over 200 participation rosettes and planned and organised 2 youth led events. In 2017, Gul acted as a springboard for over 90% of the young people attending to re-engage with mainstream education or continue further with provision at Gul after making progress towards set goals.
In 2017 Gul was a referral partner to 3 NHS Trusts, 4 County Councils, 20 primary Schools, 3 secondary Schools, 2 colleges and 2 Universities as well as having partnerships with Community First, The Building Bridges Programme and through Involve Swindon, national businesses such as Lloyds Bank, Nationwide, MACE construction, AVIVA and Tesco all of whom support Gul with volunteer projects.
Gul's provision increases the opportunities for young people experiencing difficulties. Achieving even small goals can transform young people's outlook on the world. Gul regularly receives feedback from schools and parents saying how X is a different person and that he or she said they felt really proud of themselves. This positive effect is also felt by the families and support agencies surrounding beneficiaries, who as a result are less troubled by the needs of the person in their care. In 2017 Gul recorded 95% of those attending its services had improved levels of wellbeing since attending. On leaving Gul beneficiaries go on to engage more fully with a formal school placement or seek specialist provision elsewhere. Gul does not receive formal progress reports of historic beneficiaries but is now in the fortunate position of seeing young people who started Gul aged 8 take their first steps to employment as happy confident adults, indeed one such person has recently been employed by the charity.
The charity was founded in 2003 by Plain Church Celtic Community (a small Celtic Christian community). Beginning with "Rides with Jake" from the home of the charity's CEO Dr Celia Grummitt, all those involved in the set up quickly saw the great need for our provision as a steady stream of people arrived who could benefit from even the very basic provision Gul could offer.
"Rides with Jake" continued for a few years before the decision was taken to register Gul as a Charity in 2006. With the charity's registration came the purchase of its first site, Byways, this 7 acre stable yard became home to a small herd of ponies and was at the heart of our provision for 3 years.
In 2009 the real test for Gul arrived as the site the charity had been renting for a number of years came up for sale. Riverside was everything Gul had dreamed of (well it will be eventually), 19 acres of mixed paddocks and woodland, the site was too good to pass up. Being adventurous types, the members of Plain Church clubbed together and bought the site with their savings.. it took almost all they had but they did it - Riverside was born.
It turns out the story wasn't finished there and in 2010 another site in Shrewton came up for sale. The Bustard Hotel was a site in desperate need of renovation, a former public house and BnB, the old pub gave Gul the chance to provide residential accommodation for those attending Riverside and beyond. The Bustard proved to be a real challenge as the members had cleaned out their savings purchasing Riverside, so to purchase The Bustard too they needed to raise extra capital, they did this by selling property and re-mortgaging homes, a huge risk and a big leap of faith. The church members knew that this was the right thing to do and now, nearly 10 years later, they have been proved right. The Bustard is key to Gul's provision, it provides an indoor space for fundraising and tuition, a secure office space for the charities HQ as well as 6 en-suite rooms for residents.
From small beginnings with Jake the Shetland pony, to 16 ponies, over 100 acres of outdoor space, a residential centre and over 20,000 hours of provision in 2017. Gul has grown beyond what its founders thought possible and now looks to a bright future helping disadvantaged people across the south of England and Wales.
All of this would have been impossible without the hard work and support of Gul's Members and volunteers, especially Plain Church. Plain Church worships weekly in Shrewton, more information can be found here. In founding the charity God Unlimited Outdoor Therapy, church members were able to serve their wider community, demonstrate their faith and in so doing help those in significant need. Today Plain Church supports Gul with volunteers but the services provided at Gul are non denominational and non ecumenical meaning that the charity welcomes anyone through its doors who seeks its help.