STAFF at a resource centre in Galashiels have been treating mental health patients with mountain bike sessions.

And the therapy on the trails at Glentress has proved such a success that the programme could be wheeled out across Scotland.

The six-week pilot programme was initiated by Developing Mountain Biking in Scotland, the Galashiels Resource Centre and Edinburgh Napier University.

A total of ten locals with mental health issues who are supported by the Scottish Borders Health and Social Care Partnership took part in the trial.

Robert McCulloch-Graham, who is chief health and social integration officer for the Partnership, told us: “This was a hugely innovative and exciting project and I am delighted to hear that our clients found it to be so beneficial.

"It certainly seems to have been one of the best attended programmes the Partnership has delivered with staff reporting an exceptional response from everyone taking part.

"Not only did they find it useful to be able to work with participants in a real life setting, they were also able to observe some genuine progress being made in terms of personal resilience, self-efficacy, social skills and confidence.

“Our thanks go to Developing Mountain Biking in Scotland for their support in enabling us to provide our clients with this opportunity.

"We look forward to seeing the project evaluation when that is available and what potential there might be for the initiative to be available elsewhere in Scotland in the future.”

The pilot project ran from August until September last year.

Each of the ten participants from around the Borders was supplied with bikes and helmets from the Alpine Bikes store at Glentress before taking part in a two hour ride by led qualified leaders from Developing Mountain Biking in Scotland.

Staff from the Galashiels Resource Centre were also on hand to lend support.

Graeme McLean from Developing Mountain Biking in Scotland said: “This was an amazing pilot to be involved with.

"Every week we went away buzzing from enjoyment everyone was getting from the rides.

"We were keen to help this programme to happen by delivering the weekly sessions.

"We wanted to understand if mountain biking aided people’s recovery from a period of mental ill health, how we as leaders could learn from the experience and, using our role within mountain biking in Scotland, how we could take these learnings and spread them across Scotland.”

The trail therapy is being evaluated by Melrose-based sports psychologist Tony Westbury

Tony, who works at Edinburgh Napier University, said: “We think this a fantastic programme and through our observations we can see that the participants really enjoyed mountain biking and the experience provided by Developing Mountain Biking in Scotland.

"We will be studying the impact of the programme from the participants’ perspective and also collecting the learnings from the leaders and occupational therapists involved into how the programme could be developed, improved and escalated into the future.”