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The Heart Wood Team


Chip Ponsford | Founder of Heart Wood and Lead Therapist

Chip is a person-centred counsellor and supervisor registered with the National Counselling Society, with particular interest in and experience of working therapeutically with men outdoors. He facilitated a group for men convicted of serious offences at Katherine Price Hughes House in 2012 and has worked with male torture survivors at The Refugee Therapy Centre, London, and with people with psychological distress and diagnoses in a number of settings including at Islington MIND, Highbury Counselling Centre and in private practice in London and Northumberland.  Chip undertook a day of CPD in outdoor therapy with Rab Erskine in 2015, as well as training with The Wilderness Foundation, and in facilitating learning with Forest School. Having relocated to Northumberland in 2015, Chip and Rab Erskine ran a pilot project in partnership with NDAS (Northumberland Domestic Abuse Services). The positive outcomes of this project led to the creation of Heart Wood.

Rab Erskine and Chip Ponsford

Rab Erskine | Mentor to Heart Wood and Lead Therapist

Rab is a person-centred counsellor, a practitioner member of Cosca (Confederation of Scottish Counselling agencies). He has 32 years’ experience of working therapeutically outdoors. Alongside running a counselling service in primary care for the last twenty two years, from 1995 to 2005 he ran a small company offering short term residential ‘Wilderness Based” therapeutic experiences to individuals and group referred from social work, education and NHS secondary care referrers. From 2005 to 2016 he was commissioned to run the ‘Going Places’ project for the Borders NHS Adult Mental Health Psychiatric rehabilitation Service. 

Chip and Rab are both qualified counsellors trained in the client-centred (person-centred) model of therapy. The mode of offering therapy (presently adopted by Heart Wood) is the one that Rab has been involved in developing and that has emerged from over twenty five years of his experience of being a counsellor offering therapy in a nature setting. The main strength of this model is the adaptation of the pre-therapy system originally formulated by Garry Prouty and presently continuing to be developed by the Pre-Therapy Network alongside Rab’s experience of applying this theory to working in a nature setting for both individuals and groups.

The Person-Centred Association | The Pre-Therapy International Network

Kirsty Daley Sapiain Torres | Co-Facilitator

Kirsty is a Dramatherapist registered with The Health and Care and Professions Council. Kirsty embraces the person-centred ethos within her work. Kirsty initially worked experientially with men in secure settings and within Psychologically Informed Planned Environments. She has worked with both adults and young people in recovery from addictions and is currently working with children and young people who are identified as carers and facing complex mental health difficulties. Although Kirsty’s background is utilising artistic and creative mediums to support and guide the work, she is proactive in combining her work with the healing container of nature.

Blossie Pearce | Co-Facilitator

Blossie is a humanistic counsellor and therapist with over 18-years experience working in private practice with adults & young people. She has worked in NHS Primary Care as a GP Counsellor, local Youth Projects & Self Injury Support Services. As a person-centred practitioner Blossie offers deeply empathic, personable support, which she is passionate about ensuring is useful to her clients. She increasingly finds offering psycho-education around trauma, anxiety and self-harm is cited as helpful, particularly in her work with young people. Blossie is fully accredited therapist registered with The British Association of Counselling & Psychotherapy & the United Kingdom Register of Counsellors & Psychotherapists.

Richard Thomas | Co-Facilitator

Richard is a Person-Centred therapist, and is an accredited professional registrant with the National Counselling Society. He has worked as a therapist in a secondary school, a university, the NHS, a workplace wellbeing service, and various counselling charities. Richard is committed to voluntary work in his local community, and has previously volunteered at a community centre, a church based pantomime group and in mentoring homeless young people. He currently volunteers as a school Governor in West Northumberland.   Richard first experienced nature based therapy in 2013, when he attended a short workshop with Rab Erskine. He undertook a three weekend CPD course with Heart Wood in the Autumn of 2021. Outside of his therapeutic work, Richard teaches psychology and counselling, loves board games and bakes a lot of sourdough bread.

Carolin Blaske | Trainee Facilitator

Carolin qualified as a person-centred therapist in 2023 and is currently undertaking training with Heart Wood. She has many years of experience working outdoors as a therapeutic Forest School Practitioner with the local charity Stomping Grounds North East, delivering specialist provision to young people including trauma and complex needs. She originally studied art and trained as a teacher but managed to escape and now works almost exclusively outdoors in nature. She is always excited to learn more about trees and mushrooms, foraging and working with natural materials.



Stephanie Ellis | Treasurer Steph has worked in the funding sector for over a decade, previously working with One NorthEast on Rural Development Funding, European Regional Development Fund auditing, Grants for Business Investment and Grants for Research and Development. Since 2012, she has worked on dedicated programmes for The National Lottery Community Foundation, some of which have included the Advice and Advocacy sector and holistic methods of crisis intervention and resolution. Since 2017, Steph has held the post of Regional Funding Officer for Northumberland which involves a wider charitable sector workload, including building and maintaining strategic stakeholder relationships across Northumberland and more recently the North of Tyne Combined Authority.  Steph brings extensive network of local contacts and knowledge, from being a member of the NHS Social Prescribing network in the North East since its inception, to being a member of the Help Through Crisis Advisory Board, members of which include Trussell Trust, Child Poverty Action Group, Crisis, Shelter, and The Centre for Mental Health. 

Sue James | Chair of Trustees Sue is a person-centred counsellor who, for over 25 years, has worked in a variety of contexts including universities, voluntary organisations, NHS, and working independently. Roles have included Head of Counselling at University of Lincoln, Therapy Service Manager at CancerCare, Development Manager for The Survivors Trust and Clinical Lead at Trust House Lancashire (a sexual abuse support centre). In addition, Sue offers lecturing, training and supervision. Sue has always been interested in work that encourages and enables men to find expression, reflection and connection so support mental health and well-being.

Jos Joures | Trustee has many years experience across the private, public and third sectors, including 15 years as a Whitehall Senior Civil Servant. He has experience across many aspects of social policy from healthcare to disability rights, and has operated at a senior level in strategy and policy development, programme and project management, operational management and external communications. He has graduate and postgraduate qualifications in economics and psychology, and was awarded a CBE for his contribution to public policy and for his work with disadvantaged young people. Jos is a huge advocate for the benefits of nature for well-being and can often be found on the beaches, moors and woods of Northumberland with dog, Hughie.

Judi Perry | Trustee Judi is a person-centred and experiential counsellor (UKCP accredited) with experience working within the NHS, voluntary organisations and private practice. She has also previously been Co-Manager of a charity counselling organisation and is a member of the Pre-Therapy International Network. Judi is passionate about the person-centred approach, Pre-Therapy and challenging the stigma around mental health.



Rachel Martin | Administrator Rachel is an experienced Administrator having worked in a variety of settings over the last 20 years including: Further Education, training, private clients. Rachel very much loves to be hands on and enjoys being part of a team. In her spare time is a qualified FA Youth Coach and helps to run a local junior football club where she is responsible for all fundraising events. She loves being outdoors, enjoying the countryside and looking after her pedigree Texel sheep.

Emma Ponsford | Manager Emma is an experienced producer, manager and fundraiser.  She has worked at Sadler’s Wells Theatre since 2002, first in the programming department before becoming General Manager for Breakin' Convention, managing the a team of five and working alongside Jonzi D delivering an annual hip hop festival in London, national touring and overseeing all professional development activity. In 2015 Emma relocated to Northumberland for a better quality of life, and continues to work for Breakin' Convention. She was the Chair of Trustees for Music and Movement for three years. 

Katherine Calder | pro bono legal consultant is a senior legal public and procurement law consultant with city law firm, Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP amongst others. Katherine is ranked in Chambers & Partners and Who’s Who Legal as one of the UKs leading procurement and public contract lawyers. Katherine has 18 years’ experience of advising public bodies on their commercial and grant funding contracts - and also companies applying for such funding contracts such as charities, school governing bodies and other not-for-profit vehicles.

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