Woods….bathing, breathing & simply being.

Well the hammock isn’t quite strung between palm trees & the cup of tea I’ve got isn’t quite the gin cocktail I’d like……but the view of this mighty oak (which has easily got a good couple of hundred years under its belt) certainly helps you to relax, just breathe and let your brain destress for a moment. Looking at its ancient form, thinking of how time has passed around it puts all the little things into perspective.


With the everyday stresses of life a moments calm can be gained from pausing, breathing slowly and deeply and just allowing yourself time to reconnect with nature. Life is paced so fast these days, that being able to appreciate the beauty of things and how everything is intrinsically linked to all around it, can put the living world into perspective.

If you’ve never come across the Japenese healing way of Shinrin-yoku or Forest Therapy, it’s certainly worth having in the back of your mind next time you’re finding things are getting too much, or simply needing 5 minutes to clear your head. The treatment, devised in the 1980s, involves simply being in the forest. Shinrin-yoku is a term that means “taking in the forest atmosphere” or “forest bathing.” The principle behind the therapy is simple. By just being within a natural area, embracing it in a relaxed way there are ‘calming, rejuvenating and restorative benefits to be achieved’ (source – www.shinrin-yoku.org )


Our small area of ‘nature’ comes in the form of our small copse, or if you’ll indulge me our little area of woodland. As previously covered in ‘Seeing the Wood for the Trees’ we have grand plans for this section. In order to become immersed and fully gain the benefits of the trees, there is a desperate need for the addition of structure. At the moment everything is on one level……and that level is very very very high. The tree’s canopies fighting for light, each tree pushing the crown of the next upward. Last years tree surgery helped to thin the scrub and made small steps in lowering the canopies of the existing trees, the full effects of which won’t be seen for a few years, however there is still much more that can be done.

The real focus of what we are looking to achieve is a natural space, not uncared for, but definitely left to allow natural processes to occur. Leaves should be able to fall, decompose and be reabsorbed into the soil. Plants should be able to let themselves grow and mould together, competition dictating how virulent they become, what succeeds and what dwindles. All that being said the current state of play means a little encouragement, a gentle nudge in the right direction, would not be uncalled for. The first task at hand was providing access to the whole area. Initially there was a single path that ran top to bottom, surrounded on each side by all manner of weeds and debris. Using the mower we weaved our way through the trees, creating island beds and gaining safe passage, free from nettles, brambles and other pitfalls. Easy access was given to and around the wildlife pond and couple of wider areas were cleared, strategically placed so that benches could be seated allowing places to sit and contemplate.


Instantly the woodland was opened up. Our boys, once bound by the single track, were now free to roam….. and roam they did. Running around with Kevin the Dog, exploring, finding wild flowers previously unseen, collecting different leaves and gathering twigs and branches to make dens and campfires.  Such a simple task had made so much of a difference, being able to wander around made the woodland feel larger and allowed you to see it from different viewpoints, giving different perspectives on what once was a flat space. Yet our work wasn’t done.

Next task was adding some variety. Providing a range of heights, creating screens which prevent you from seeing the whole area at once. Adding structure and interest at a lower level would enable your eye to bounce around, from shrub to shrub. The paths drawing you in, begging you to investigate further as hidden corners appear and come into view.

Our height was going to come in the form of the Rhododendrons.  The Rhododendrons and Azaleas in this garden are plentiful (as blogged about a few months ago when they were in full bloom), grouped together and somewhat abandoned at the end of the main garden. The added advantage of the addition of the Rhododendrons is that not only will they add height and colour, along with a year round presence, they will help keep at bay the insane amount of ground elder which remains present throughout.

IMG_4677We also hope that with the substantial increase in the range of plants will come an increase in wildlife. The creation of a dedicated wildlife area, with log piles and wildlife friendly plants which will be left relatively undisturbed, with only a single path gaining access to the pond.  This will hopefully increase the ecology at a base level and as such bring with it a large range of birds, amphibians, mammals and hopefully reptiles. With a seating area adjacent in order to soak up the nature of it all, the benefits of such a site are almost unquantifiable.

So next time life is moving too fast and those little stresses are starting to build, just head outside, step back, let go of your thoughts & breathe in the nature that surrounds you….Kevin the Dog certainly does!



  1. What an amazing space! I love the idea of forest bathing – it’s one of the proposals on the new People’s Manifesto for Wildlife that the NHS introduce first being as a firm of therapy. I know it works for me!!

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