A GOUROCK man who was diagnosed with depression says an outdoor conservation project has changed his life.

Mark McVey became isolated and lonely following the death of his parents, who he had looked after.

The 45-year-old was later diagnosed with depression.

He says his life has been transformed since he started at the 'Green Gym' which is part of a community rewilding project run by The Conservation Volunteers charity at Coves Reservoir.

Now Mark has a renewed zest for life and has found work through the initiative.

He told the Tele: "This project has benefited me massively.

"My problem was that I suffered from severe isolation and loneliness.

"I was caring for my parents and after they died I felt a bit lost."

But Mark said things started to change for the better when he made an appointment to see his GP.

He added: "I went to see the doctor and was diagnosed with depression so I was referred to community psychiatric nurse.

"I was then referred to SAMH (the Scottish Association for Mental Health charity) and they referred me to this project."

Mark says the project has made a huge difference to both his mental and physical wellbeing.

Every Wednesday he joins other volunteers to take part in different outdoor activities and conservation tasks.

He said: "This has really got me going - it has changed my life.

"I've also managed to get some freelance graphic design work from it."

The group carry out a range of conservation tasks including litter picking and improvements to the paths.

Another volunteer revelling in the project is Alex Cameron, 67, from Port Glasgow.

He said: "I'm really enjoying it.

"It helps you to feel good as you are in contact with nature and I'm doing something useful now that I'm retired."

Juliette Walsh, who is a senior project officer with The Conservation Volunteers, says the initiative has been a huge success.

She said: "We have as many as 18 people coming along each week.

"It improves people's health and wellbeing.

"Unfortunately Inverclyde Council has very little money to help maintain the site so it really is up to local volunteers to keep it ship-shape for both people and wildlife."

Another member, Marie Stonehouse, 52, from Gourock, added: "When you come along and help out in such spectacular surroundings, it makes you feel so good as you're doing something to help the community.

"It's also very educational as I've learned so much about conservation.

"Juliette who runs the Green Gym has been fantastic."

Andrew Christie, 40, from Greenock, said he really enjoys the physical side of the project such as clearing the paths.

He said: "It gets me out of bed in the morning - I enjoy doing this.

"You get ideas about how to improve the area."

As a result of the success of the project, an off-shoot group has now been set up called 'Friends of Coves Reservoir'.

The group will hold monthly litter picks with the first one on Saturday November 3.

Anyone who has an hour to spare is encouraged to meet at 9.30am at Inverclyde Royal Hospital's overflow car park.