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The natural world is powerful, in more ways than one. Simply spending a couple of hours, a week in the great outdoors can do you wonders – let us introduce you to forest bathing. The perfect activity to try during October half term, get outdoors and embrace the natural world beneath a canopy of rich orange hues.
What is forest bathing?
It is quite simple really; the Japanese art of forest bathing is the act of spending time surrounded by nature to relax and deliver a sense of wellbeing. According to a large-scale study led by British Scientists, it really does have physical and mental health benefits. Originating over 40 years ago in Japan, Shinrin-yoku, (forest bathing or forest therapy) is a form of nature therapy, which in some places, is even being prescribed to patients. It’s had the royal seal of approval too – with Kate Middleton designing her garden at the 2019 Chelsea Flower Show around the concept.
Our top tips for first-time forest bathers
So how do you do forest bathing? We have put together our top tips to help first-time forest bathers…
• First things first, switch off your mobile phone. You won’t be needing any electrical devices for this.
• Seek out somewhere beautiful. We have recommended some of the most colourful places in the New Forest for forest bathing in autumn.
• Clear your mind. Forest bathing is much more than just a walk, (but the best walks in the New Forest are great for it too) you need to put all other thoughts out of your mind, forget the household chores, the work emails and never-ending list of DIY jobs. Forget all your worries and turn your attention to the smells, sights and sounds around you.
• Go into the forest with a goal. It doesn’t have to be a big one. It could be anything from de-stressing to noticing something new like the way the sun catches through the amber trees.
• Don’t force it. Sitting quietly in a forest might not come naturally to everyone, so don’t worry if you don’t leave feeling like a new person. It’s all in the experience, so just go with it and don’t take it too seriously – it will do more wonders to you than you realise. Even just the sunlight on your skin will encourage your body to release serotonin, which helps you feel calm and focused.
• Move slowly. There’s no need to rush. The key to forest bathing is noticing the little things and you are far more likely to do that if you take it at a gentler pace.
• Don’t go too far. There’s no need to plan a 10-mile hike and exhaust everyone. Find a peaceful spot and explore every inch of it. There must have been a reason why you chose that space after all.
• Don’t feel like you have to move at all. Why not find a tree trunk to sit on, a bench to claim or lay down a blanket on the autumn leaves? Sit a while and see what wildlife wanders past.
• Stay as long as you wish. The recognised time for forest bathing is 2 hours but even just 10 minutes perched on a log will have its benefits. The great thing about forest bathing on holiday though, you will have more time for the things you enjoy – you could spend the whole day out there!
• Breathing is key. It’s a bit like yoga! You don’t have to get too hung up on it but try and clear your mind for even just a moment. Close your eyes, breath in and out a few times before gently opening your eyes to focus on the colourful trees, the blue sky, the sound of leaves rustling and ponies grazing nearby.
• Feeling a little unsure? If you would rather go alone or you want to miss the crowds, pick a quieter time of the day like early in the morning.
Top tips for forest bathing with children
It’s not just adults that can reap the health benefits of forest bathing, children get stressed too. Studies have also shown that today, children spend only half as much time playing outside as their parents did as children. So, ditch the tablet and introduce some fun things to do to keep forest bathing child friendly.
- Before you go, download a selection of Spotting Sheets from the Wildlife Trusts – choose the sheets geared towards autumn such as ‘Funghi Detective’ or the ‘Leaf & Tree Detective’.
- Take a notebook and pencils and challenge them to use the sense of sight to draw what they see.
- Set them on a ‘silent’ hunt for the prettiest autumn leaves to make pictures with later.
- Search the forest floor for conkers to make games out of.
- Listen to the bird song and see if they can identify what they can hear.
- Encourage them to use their senses to list everything they can hear, see and smell.
- Forage for hazelnuts, chestnuts and wild blackberries and keep an eye out for mushrooms and toadstools (don’t touch though! They may be poisonous.)
Where to go forest bathing in autumn in the New Forest
Located on the banks of Beaulieu River, this 200-acre woodland garden is one of several gardens in the New Forest, and features hundreds of varieties of plants, trees and shrubs. When autumn arrives, a diverse mix of varieties delivers a vibrant display of colour. Closes for winter on 3rd November.
This circular walk takes in the amber colours of ancient fir trees, giant sequoias, redwood and conifers. Start at Blackwater car park and follow the trail north to Brock Hill before crossing Rhinefield Ornamental Drive and returning on the other side.
Eyeworth Wood & Lake
Located near Fritham, this is a truly beautiful spot to visit in autumn. The forest floor becomes a sea of orange leaves and trees of all shapes and sizes tower overhead. An idyllic lake surrounded almost completely by trees is often frequented by ponies and deer.
This easy 3-mile walk gives you a good amount of forest time and in autumn, you are likely to hear the “belling” of both fallow and red deer stags as the annual rut begins. Keep your eyes peeled for all kinds of other fascinating wildlife too.
Hatchet Pond is the largest body of water in the New Forest and all year round it is a haven for wildlife from wetland species and birds to deer and wild ponies. The evening is a great time to visit because, on a clear day, the sunset really will take your breath away.
Where to stay in the New Forest
Holmfield House | Lyndhurst | Sleeps 6 – Great for families
Located on the fringes of an enchanting New Forest village, Holmfield House is perfectly located for exploring into the depths of the ancient woodlands. A good size for groups, it caters well for families and even has a playroom for easy entertaining of younger guests.
This charming riverside property is located within the grounds of Beaulieu Estate. With miles of walks right from the doorstep, it’s a great location choice for couples and their four-legged friends. After a chilly autumnal day in the forest, you can all curl up together in front of the open fire.
Jobbers Retreat | Pennington | Sleeps 2 – Great for couples
A spacious studio in a pleasant spot between the village of Sway and the town of Lymington. Surrounded by an abundance of the countryside, it won’t take you long to venture to open moorland and beautiful forests. A cute garden area offers a great spot for morning coffee too!
Whether you have been inspired to give forest bathing a go or you simply want to embrace the autumn colours of the New Forest this October half term, we have some truly beautiful October half-term cottages to call home.
Choose from our family-friendly cottages, our dog-friendly collection or find a large house big enough for a group of you.