The Japanese phenomenon of Forest Bathing has spread across the globe, with thousands now aware of the health benefits of spending time peacefully in nature. For those of us with a tendency to hurry everywhere it can be hard to just stay still, so going Forest Bathing with someone who knows what they are doing is the best way to learn.
Local company, Dorset Forest Bathing, runs events in various places in Wiltshire and Dorset, one of which is a nature reserve, the Devenish, in the Woodford Valley near Salisbury.
The Devenish is 56 acres of woodland and meadows in the beautiful Woodford Valley just north of Salisbury. It is owned by the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust, donated by the previous owners of the land, the Devenish family. This area was once typical Wiltshire chalkland, until the creation of parkland for Little Durnford Manor in the 1700s. An avenue of beech trees was planted and later on the woodland area was expanded for pheasant shooting.
On sloping chalkland, there is a mixture of types of woodland, with both deciduous and coniferous trees. Coppicing in some parts has allowed the light to reach the ground, meaning that some areas are filled with undergrowth while other areas just have soft loamy, rotting, leaf-covered soil. There is a huge variety of birds, insects and fungi in the woods, and the chalk meadows are filled with orchids and butterflies.