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6 places to try forest bathing in the UK

House Beautiful (UK) logo House Beautiful (UK) 20/02/2019 Olivia Heath
a close up of a lush green forest: Forest Bathing is taken from the phrase Shinrin-yoku, a term coined in Japan in the 1980s, practicing taking in the forest atmosphere and promoting wellness. Find out more about forest therapy and discover the six places to try forest bathing in the UK. © Mark Thompson / EyeEm - Getty Images Forest Bathing is taken from the phrase Shinrin-yoku, a term coined in Japan in the 1980s, practicing taking in the forest atmosphere and promoting wellness. Find out more about forest therapy and discover the six places to try forest bathing in the UK.

The Duchess of Cambridge's highly-anticipated Chelsea Flower Show 2019 'RHS Back to Nature Garden' has been inspired by the Japanese art of forest bathing. But what exactly is it?

Forest bathing, translated from the Japanese phrase Shinrin-yoku (a term coined in the 1980s), is a form of nature therapy that promotes wellness by simply taking in the forest atmosphere. And good news, we can all get on board and embrace it.

Drawing upon mindfulness meditation practices, forest bathing enables you to connect with nature on a deeper level. It's a focus on your senses and surroundings, whether you're breathing in the beauty of the scenery, touching plants or listening to the sounds around you.

a tree in the middle of a forest: Blackwood forest © Forest Holidays Blackwood forest

According to Dr. Miles Richardson from Derby University, a specialist in nature connections, spending time taking notice of nature has a host of real and measurable benefits.

First of all, it makes you happier and calmer, which consequently improves your mental health. Surrounding yourself in nature can also reduce your blood pressure, increase your serotonin levels, boost your immune system and bring balance to your emotions. To put it simply, nature is good for you.

But we already knew this, right? At a time when mental wellbeing is in the spotlight more than ever before, the need to spend time outdoors is even more prevalent, but not everyone gets to experience it – one in three people in the UK have never been for a walk amongst nature.

a tree in a forest: Morning Light through Winter Trees © Verity E. Milligan - Getty Images Morning Light through Winter Trees

David Strayer, a cognitive psychologist at the University of Utah, who studied nature’s calming effect on human stress levels, says that, 'Our brains aren’t tireless three-pound machines; they’re easily fatigued. When we slow down, stop the busy work, and take in beautiful natural surroundings, not only do we feel restored, but our mental performance improves too.'

How to practice Forest Bathing?

So at this point you've probably realised that it really doesn't take much to experience forest bathing yourself. Dr. Qing Li of the Nippon Medical School in Tokyo suggests that while a three day stay in the forest is the ideal, you can absorb the therapeutic effects of forest bathing simply with a walk in a woodland area.

But remember, it's the action of taking notice of nature that is really key, not just simply going for a walk. Again, using your senses is key here, and engaging in activities such as photography, art, den building, and star gazing can all inspire this nature connection.

a close up of a lush green forest: Strathyre forest © Forest Holidays Strathyre forest

A simple exercise in Forest Bathing includes:

1. Noticing at least three good things in nature

2. Recording these good things, along with how they make you feel, either with a photo or writing them down

3. Focus on your senses and ask yourself what do you see, hear, smell, touch and taste?

4. Notice changes in the weather and differences they make to your surroundings

Where to go

If you're lucky enough to live in a rural area you'll find woodlands and densely forested areas right on your doorstep, but even if you live in the city you still won't have to travel far to reap the benefits of the ancient Japanese art of shinrin-yoku. Forest Holidays is the first holiday company in the UK to introduce Forest Bathing to help Brits get back in touch with nature. Team members have undergone extensive training with The Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides and Programmes in Forest Bathing.

1. Deerpark in Cornwall

Surrounded by beautiful Cornish countryside, Deerpark is a mixed forest of broad leaves and conifers with over 25 identified species. Hemlocks give rise to an enchanting and atmospheric mossy floor, and Deerpark also has claim to the tallest tree in Cornwall – a giant redwood or sequoia which was planted over 150 years ago and stands 160 foot tall.

a tree in a forest: Deerpark © Forest Holidays Deerpark

2. Beddgelert in Wales

Planted with conifers and broadleaves in the heart of Snowdonia there are plenty of trails and footpaths to choose from when exploring the forest of Beddgelert. The forest trail to Llyn Llewelyn is a brilliant way to start your Forest Bathing journey.

a rocky landscape with bushes: Beddgelert © Forest Holidays Beddgelert

3. Keldy in Yorkshire

Keldy is part of Cropton Forest and includes a mixture of broad-leafed and naturally seeded conifers. You will find Beech, Birch, Oak, Hawthorn, Horse Chestnut and Rowan mixed with Larch, Spruce and Scots Pine. One of the features of Keldy is its open meadows. Moorland species such as Heather and tufted grasses spring up in the breaks between forest blocks and gorse grows along the woodland edge providing a safe wintering resting place for ladybirds.

a tree in a forest: Beautiful forests in the UK to try Forest Bathing © Forest Holidays Beautiful forests in the UK to try Forest Bathing

4. Blackwood in Winchester

Tall, orderly trees make a real impression at Blackwood forest. The beech trees are shallow rooted and thrive on the chalky and sandy ground. The forest floor is a carpet of shade-loving bluebells in the spring and a carpet of golden leaves in the autumn. Along the edges of the forest and other internal boundaries you can see other tree species, such as oak, yew, silver birch, ash, sycamore, hazel, hornbeam, white beam, hawthorn, willow and dogwood.

a tree in the middle of a forest: Blackwood © Forest Holidays Blackwood

5. Strathyre in Scotland

Overerlooked by Ben Ledi, an imposing mountain standing close to 3,000ft, Strathyre forest has a lot of local history attached to it including the ‘secret commonwealth’ of elves, fauns and fairies described by author Robert Kirk. Along the trackside some orchids can be seen including northern marsh orchids and the common spotted orchid. Red squirrel are often sighted here too due to the hazel and spruce trees.

a herd of sheep walking along a river next to a body of water: Strathyre © Forest Holidays Strathyre

6. Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire

This mixed woodland with ancient forest areas provides a stunning setting for Forest Bathing. Douglas firs and pedunculate oak create the canopy while the under-story is mostly hazel, holly and silver birch.

a tree in a forest: Forest of Dean © Forest Holidays Forest of Dean

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