Retreat to nature: Forest Holidays, Thorpe Forest, Norfolk

Watching the sun glinting through tall trees as I took in the scents, sounds and textures of the woodland, I was completely absorbed in the moment, noticing my surroundings in unusually close detail. Welcome to forest bathing.

This has been a common practice in Japan for many years – where it is known as shinrin-yoku – but now it is catching on here because of the benefits to be had from, not merely visiting a forest, but truly slowing down and stopping to notice it. It is mindfulness, but with an added dimension of being in nature. Spending time in the forest can produce a calmer frame of mind and a boosted immune system.

My forest bathing session took place at Forest Holidays’ Norfolk location, Thorpe Forest, under the guidance of ranger Charlie Houlder-Moat, who expertly led the group through the three-hour session.

Feeling the forest

When we were asked to walk super-slowly through the forest really stopping to notice what there was to see, it took me a few minutes to grasp quite how slowly to take it and at first I set off way too fast. We’re often so used thinking we have to get somewhere that we focus on that, failing to notice the here and now, and this is what the Forest Bathing session ultimately teaches – the sheer joy of slowing down. There are a series of absorbing tasks to undertake during the session, such as gathering items that stand out to you, or finding some kindling, or choosing a single tree to examine more. This gives it a structure and encourages you to notice and think about your surroundings in a more profound way than you might do otherwise. The session was nicely rounded off with a peaceful and simple tea ceremony.

Soaking up the atmosphere

Later the same day we got a different perspective on the forest when we hired bikes to ride around the woodland tracks, racing through the pine trees and stopping here and there to take pictures in the golden light.

We stayed in a comfortable cabin with an elegant Scandi vibe and a massive window looking straight out onto the forest. The rooms were simply decorated and it had cosy, under-floor heating and a well-equipped kitchen. Best of all there was a large hot-tub on the deck outside where we enjoyed the great outdoors, looking up at the trees and the stars from the comfort of the hot bubbly water – truly relaxing.

Trip notes

The forest bathing session costs £30 and is available at Thorpe Forest, Norfolk and Blackwood Forest, Hampshire, all year. There are also other ranger-guided activities available at the Forest Holidays centres, such as animal tracking or forest survival.

A Silver Birch cabin with hot tub, sleeping four people, costs from £595 for a three-night weekend. A one-hour in-cabin massage costs £120.

 

 

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