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Leave London to ‘bathe’ in a Hampshire forest

Written by
Alim Kheraj

Heading to Hampshire for a ‘forest bathing’ weekend, I have no idea what’s on the cards. I certainly don’t expect to end up crying while hugging a tree. And it’s not how it goes for the first part of my trip (that involves a hot tub).

Photograph: Lizzie Walker-Arnott

It all changes on Sunday morning when I’m introduced to David, a ranger who, for three hours, helps me get intimate with nature. He tells me that forest bathing involves immersion in a wood through touch. Based on Japanese shinrin-yoku (nature bathing), it’s designed to reduce blood pressure and improve mental wellbeing.

Photograph: Lizzie Walker-Arnott

I’m asked to transfer distracting thoughts into a rock before we walk to a clearing. I shut my eyes and stretch out my arms, palms turned up. As I focus on the sounds of the natural world, I feel like a Jedi trying to use the Force. I don’t get a lightsaber, though. Instead, I get emotional.

Photograph: Lizzie Walker-Arnott

Tasked with telling a tree what’s on my mind, I’m drawn to a silvery birch with gnarled branches. Someone with more emotional control might not have cried, but with birds chirping and my arms clasping the tree, I feel overwhelmed with gratitude.

I’m not quite ready for life as a forest dweller, but as Yoda might say: closer to becoming at one with nature I am.

Blackwood Forest, Micheldever, Hampshire. Forest Bathing £30. Cabin from £595 for three nights, sleeps four. Book here.

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