'I lived in the woods for 20 years': How Sean is starting new life

Fresh Start and ex offenders charity based in Norwich.Sean Bedward is a client of Fresh Start who's

Sean Bedward is transforming his life having lived in a woodland for two decades. Byline: Sonya Duncan

When Sean Bedward wandered into a deserted woodland he believed he would never come out.  

The 57-year old entered the woods with the intention of committing suicide but sat down to finish a cup of tea. 

Listening to the birdsong, Sean felt calm for the first time in his life. 

With only the clothes on his back Sean to make the woods his home for the next 20 years.

He said: "It was the first time in my life I felt calm and hope."

Sean, who now lives in Norwich, explained: "I yo-yoed between being in prison and living in the woods. Every time I got out I headed straight back. I wanted to be isolated.

"I love being outdoors and I liked living there.

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"I tried to help keep the area clean by picking up rubbish and keeping paths clear."

Using alcohol to keep himself warm at night, Sean had few communication and life skills.

But in 2020 he met Jamie Barnes, a service manager for charity Fresh Start which aims to provide people leaving custody with the support they need to avoid re-offending.  

Fresh Start and ex offenders charity based in Norwich.Jamie Barnes, service manager with trustee an

Jamie Barnes, service manager with Sean Bedward. Byline: Sonya Duncan - Credit: Sonya Duncan

He said at first he was sceptical, but added: “I started to believe in Jamie when instead of telling me what he wanted, he asked me what I wanted."

Since becoming a client at the charity Sean has got training and qualifications and has moved into a city hostel. 

He said: “If it wasn’t for Fresh Start I am certain I would be back in prison now."

Sean hopes to work in construction or conservation.  

He said: “Being outdoors gives me so much satisfaction. 

Fresh Start and ex offenders charity based in Norwich.
Sean Bedward is a client of Fresh Start who's

Fresh Start and ex offenders charity based in Norwich. Sean Bedward is a client of Fresh Start who's life has been transformed by their support. Byline: Sonya Duncan - Credit: Sonya Duncan

“I passed my training last month and Fresh Start has worked with me to develop my conversational skills so employment is finally within reach.” 

He added: “Long term I just want to get a job and be able to pay my own bills. 

"For now I am enjoying walking and helping with the gardening at my hostel.” 

Jamie said: “Being isolated and living in the woods meant Sean lacked interpersonal skills which we’ve worked with him to develop.  

“But Sean is doing all the hard work, he’s making the good choices. 

"Our support will be continuous and we will keep working with him to avoid re-offending.”