STAFF from Gwent Police have been helping put the finishing touches to a woodland centre in Penallt which will host courses for people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The Pen-Y-Graig Ancient Woodland Training and Products Centre will support employees from the emergency services and the military who have experienced PTSD.

It is hoped the Welsh Government-funded scheme will develop new processes and methods to accelerate PTSD recovery, and it is expected these methods will also help reduce the sense of stigma and social isolation experienced by sufferers.

“Having gone through my own dark days of PTSD I know only too well its disabling effect,” the centre’s managing director and former Metropolitan police officer James Cooke said.

The centre contains eight acres of ancient woodland, with a cabin for seasonal forestry accommodation and a renovated 18th-century barn for workshops and coaching.

The exciting project is likely to include the use of horses for logging, learning how to build dry-stone walls, and lessons in woodcraft. There will also be professionals on site to offer clinical support through counselling and similar services.

Mr Cooke praised those Gwent Police employees who had been helping get the centre ready for its opening this autumn.

Community support officer Peter Walker is one of those who has been helping.

He said: “I got involved as I was diagnosed and treated for PTSD. In my opinion this centre will provide treatment in a relaxed, private and beautiful environment for people who have seen or experienced traumatic events.

“I have first-hand experience of the effect PTSD can have on a person’s life, family and career.

“If my small contribution can help with someone’s recovery then I feel I have a responsibility to help.”

As well as helping those PTSD sufferers who take part in courses, the centre will also focus on conservation, showing participants how to help with the regeneration of the ancient woodland, as well as supporting the local economy through timber and craft product sales.

This, the centre’s organisers hope, will eventually allow for a form of forestry diversification in which the operating costs can be offset by paid health care provision in the future.

Mr Cooke said the centre’s website would be operational at the end of the month, and hoped to open in mid-to-late October once selected staff were ready.