May is National Walking Month which encourages us all to walk more and stay active. As well as benefiting the environment, walking is fantastic for our mental health and physical wellbeing. We asked some of our visitors to share why they love walking in the Forest and the benefits it brings.
The best friends
Sarah and Jane, along with their dogs, enjoy the Dorsington area of the Forest at least twice a day during the week, as well as visiting with their families at the weekends.
“Walking in the Forest has become an important part of our daily routine. When we are in the woods we feel as though we become at one with the trees and the nurturing environment, it’s always a wonderful experience” says Sarah. “All of the woods have a different feel to them, and Roberts Wood has a special spirituality that can turn a bad day into a good one – how lucky to have this on our doorstep.”
Walking together every day, Sarah and Jane have made other friends and acquaintances on their Forest visits, and during lockdown it became a great comfort to see how others were coping. Jane says: “When we are in the woods, we find the calmness envelopes us. We would be lost without this wonderful environment in our daily lives.”
The dog walker
Soozy retired from her busy work schedule and relocated to a village in the countryside. Beau, her adorable black Labrador, is her constant companion on walks.
“One of the reasons for moving to the area was the wide-open spaces and beautiful landscapes for Beau and me to enjoy walking together. I have benefitted in every way from spending time in the Forest. For me, my health and happiness are inexplicably entwined, and walking in the woods has increased my fitness and developed my bond with Beau.
We love bumping into new friends and enjoy many chats along the way, picking up information about other walks and wildlife.”
It is hard to pick a favourite area of the Forest, as the variety of woods give a wide choice of environments. Some are more established, some have more open spaces, but each one gives us pleasure. Giddings Wood is one we often walk, but we love visiting Morgrove Coppice too.
Sometimes I will try and tie two woods together for a longer walk of up to two hours. Being a gun dog, Beau is a very fit and active lab who needs his exercise. He loves to swim, too, and finds lots of opportunity on his woodland walks.”
Claire, husband Ben, Polly aged 3 and baby Freddie are huge supporters of the Heart of England Forest and live near Haydon Way Wood.
Claire says: “I’ve always loved being surrounded by nature and want to encourage my children to feel the same passion and enthusiasm. Polly loves to ride her bike and Freddie is growing fast and needs his buggy, so the paths through the woodland mean we can all enjoy meandering round very happily and safely.”
I bring the children every day and Polly can already find blackberries growing in the hedgerows and is beginning to understand where her food comes from.”
The family often walk early in the morning where they have seen amazing sunrises and they had a very special experience last year: “As well as seeing a kingfisher in the River Arrow we were lucky enough to see a baby woodpecker peeping out of its nest in the tree trunk. I saw the flash of red of its topknot!”
“We often meet the same people on their walks and have got to know the regulars. I’ve noticed that more people have discovered the woods and the enjoyment it brings during the lockdowns.”
Like many parents with young children, Claire has a busy life and she feels the peace and serenity of the wood has helped to her to stay calm and grounded. “If you’re a bit stressed when you first start walking, you’re never the same at the other end.”
Making the most of time spent in nature
The benefits of spending time in the natural environment are well documented, but how can you maximise your time spent walking outdoors? Our series of forest therapy articles explores the different ways we can feel good in the Forest. Read about Forest bathing, mindfulness and birdsong and discover the benefits of natural light.