Swapping your long haul flight for a UK forest holiday could hold the key to a truly relaxing break. So, instead of joining the queues at Heathrow, why not stay closer to home, tap into nature, and take a deep, calming breath for your next break?
I’m lucky enough to live in the most beautiful place on earth. It’s not the Grand Canyon, or Niagra Falls, though I’m sure they have their charms. No, I live in the Forest of Dean - one of England’s most gloriously understated areas of natural beauty.
A natural rhythm
Holidaying in a city or taking a long haul flight can be exciting. But it can be stressful and overwhelming to organise. You can end up constantly on the move - rushing about trying to see everything and make the most of it. Something quite different happens when you visit a forest.
You stop. You breathe.
Spending time walking in a forest has well documented health benefits. It can bring down your blood pressure, it can calm your nerves. It can also boost your immune system, increase your ability to focus and accelerate your recovery time if you’ve been ill.
Our daily walks and explorations often take us past forest holiday-makers; campers and cyclists, families and dog walkers. All of them share the same expression. They’re smiling. It’s as if they’ve all paused and exhaled.
But for me, one of the biggest benefits of being in a forest is seeing first-hand, every day what we could lose, and what we need to preserve.
Right now, the bluebells are out. They’re everywhere, carpets of them all over our woods. I challenge anyone to wade through these land-locked seas without feeling totally uplifted. If you stand quietly you’ll hear cuckoos, wood pigeons and even woodpeckers if you’re still enough. Children can stop to make dens with the branches and small logs lying about on the forest floor. There are squirrels, kingfishers, deer and rabbits, and if you’re lucky, a wild boar or two occasionally show their faces. Later in the day, you might spot a bat swooping about.
Always something new
In summer the canopy is lush and full, and keeps the sun off your neck. In autumn, the leaves swirl around you as you walk and there are conker shells to be squirreled for if you’re so inclined (and my children certainly are).
That’s the thing about forests: you can take the same walk every day for your life and it will never be the same walk. There’s always something changing, something surprising, something new; yet I never lose touch with that feeling of antiquity - that I’m standing in and surrounded by things that have been here long before I was imagined, and will - I hope - be standing long after I’m forgotten.
Tackling climate change at its most wonderful
This is what climate change may take from us - if we let it. But we don’t have to let it. Cutting a long-haul flight and instead opting to find the treasures freely available in our own country shows us what we have to save whilst simultaneously helping to save it. And this is not about slumming it - anyone who’s seen the forest cabins or glamping options with their deep sprung mattresses and under floor heating will tell you that the luxury options are abundant. But of course you can always go wild and pitch your tent in one of the many, many beautiful campsites UK forests have to offer, and youth hostelling is another cheap and cheery option for holidaying at home.
If you like, this is activism at its most beautiful. Come and walk in our shady woods, paddle in our wild waters, spread your picnic blanket next to the wayside flowers, or stop for a drink and a locally sourced meal in a quiet riverside pub. Breathe in all the beauty and freshness you can. Because if we can heal our planet, it will without a doubt heal us right back.
Plan your escape
Find out more about Forest Holidays
Book a cheap and cheerful break in one of the UK’s many Youth Hostels
Check out Canopy and Stars for inspiring glamping locations
Check out our resources section to find your nearest wood or canopy cover.
Featured image and other images by Rachael Bernard