New research has revealed the top 10 forests for bathing in the UK ahead of International Day of Forests (21st March).
The Japanese mindfulness practice of shinrin-yoku, or ‘forest bathing’, is about taking in the forest atmosphere to help you relax. With spring in the air, what better way to have the ultimate forest bathing experience than to head to an area abundant in spring wildflowers and the relaxing sounds of birdsong.
The National Trust reveals the benefits of forest bathing including reduced blood pressure, lower cortisol (stress hormone) levels and improved concentration and memory. There’s also the added benefit of a boost in the immune system due to the chemicals released by trees called phytoncides.
LoveHemp, has analysed wildflower and songbird data from 20 forests in England that are listed by Forestry England as having easy walking trails to find the 10 best places to experience ‘forest bathing’ this spring.
Spring wildflower species observed since 2016
Dawn chorus songbird sightings in 2021 (scaled 1-10)
Dusk chorus songbirds sightings in 2021 (scaled 1-10)
Alice Holt Forest
Moors Valley Country Park and Forest
Westonbirt, The National Arboretum
Bedgebury National Pinetum and Forest
High Lodge (in Thetford Forest)
In top position is Alice Holt Forest in Hampshire. Situated south of Farnham, Surrey, Alice Holt achieved its number one spot because of its dawn and dusk songbird sightings. With 10 songbirds in both the morning and evening, you’re spoilt for choice when planning your forest bathing to Alice Holt.
Wendover Woods, located on the north edge of Chiltern Hills, Buckinghamshire, followed close second with its impressive scores for both wildflower species and songbirds. A perfect all rounder, a day out to soak in Wendover Woods’ nature is angelic for those wishing to take up forest bathing.
In third place was Moors Valley Country Park and Forest. With the highest number of spring wildflower species, Moors Valley is the best spot for those who wish to bask in the natural beauty of UK forests.
The spring wildflowers included in the analysis were Daffodil, Dog’s Mercury, Early-Purple Orchid, Lesser Celandine, Primrose, Snowdrop, Sweet Violet, Bluebell and all species of these flowers. These wildflowers can be found across the 10 best forests for forest bathing listed above.
The number of songbirds during dawn and dusk was provided by the researchers behind the citizen science tool BirdNET (2) – a mobile phone app where people can submit recordings of birds to have the species identified via artificial intelligence.
If you’re looking to make the most of the dawn and dusk songbirds then visit one of these forests between March and July. For the best time to visit, go in May and June when dawn and dusk choruses peak.
Tony Calamita, co-founder and CEO of Love Hemp, spoke of the benefits of the forest bathing practice: ‘The stresses of everyday life means that we often find ourselves looking for new ways to de-stress and take time for ourselves.
‘Forest bathing is a Japanese process of relaxation, by allowing yourself to be calm and serene among nature, you’re boosting your health and wellbeing in a natural way.
‘We recommend you turn off your phones, tablets and headsets, take your time to explore the forests and embrace everything the forests have to offer. This way you’ll be able to make the most of your forest bathing experience.’