Have you ever noticed how you feel different when surrounded by trees or when walking on a wooded path beside water? How your pace changes and you lose yourself in the sights, sounds and smells around you?
It’s a concept the Japanese call shinrin-yoku, which literally translates as ‘forest bathing’, but more broadly describes the practice of spending time within nature to nourish your wellbeing. It’s the simple idea that by just being in nature, and using your five senses, you can unwind and feel rejuvenated.
Our latest film follows writer Tor McIntosh as she shares her experience of weaving regular woodland and canal-side walks into her routine, and how it’s given her a chance to let go of the constant pings and tings of technology and to find breathing space.
So why not sit back, press play and immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of a waterside woodland, then use our regional guide to plan ways to build a regular dose of shinrin-yoku into your weekly routine. Our research here at the Trust shows that spending time beside water really does make you feel happier and healthier. Add to this the bird calls, earthy smells and fascinating textures of a woodland walk and, trust us, you’ll feel one step closer to a calmer mind
Seek out a woodland walk beside your local waterway
London: Explore a unique wet woodland on the Grand Union Canal
Way out to the west of London, alongside the Grand Union and almost touching the M25 in Uxbridge sits one of London’s most spectacular areas of woodland. Denham Lock Wood makes for a fascinating visit – in fact it’s one of the finest examples of wet woodland in Greater London. Some of that is to do with the presence of water, with the confluence of canals, lakes and rivers of the Colne Valley providing a rich habitat for birds, flowers and invertebrates… Read more.
West Midlands: Bats and anemones by Earlswood Lakes
Earlswood Lakes are a series of lakes and reservoirs just outside Solihull that were created in 1820 to supply the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal. Over the past two centuries, this man-made landscape has been colonised by numerous species of wildlife, including birds, bats, small animals and plants. It’s also home to the Clowes Wood Nature Reserve, an area of Special Scientific Interest that provides great opportunities for nature lovers and is one of the richest ecological locations on the network… Read more.
East Midlands: Lime trees on the River Witham
Southrey Woods is a short distance from the River Witham – a remote and peaceful river that rolls through the flat Lincolnshire countryside between Boston and Lincoln. The 22-acre site includes a well-managed coppice of small-leaved lime, hazel, ash and oak, while the ground flora includes early purple orchid, devil’s-bit scabious and yellow archangel. In spring, it’s rich with bluebells and lily-of-the-valley… Read more.
South West: Briny woods and salt marsh on the Droitwich Canal
The Droitwich Canal reopened in 2011 after decades of dereliction, and takes its name from the spa town of Droitwich, which is surrounded by enclaves of green. One of these is Droitwich Community Woods, which follows the canal and includes small sections of salt marshes. Once used for salt extraction, it is now run as a nature reserve… Read more.
South East: Great spotted woodpeckers on the Oxford Canal
Just north of Oxford as the Oxford Canal reaches Kidlington, it skirts the beautiful Stratfield Brake, a large patch of long-established woodland that can be accessed directly from the towpath. Stratfield Brake features 45 acres of young and mature woodland as well as meadows and wetland, and there are 15 miles of path to cover. There are ragged robin and yellow rattle, and you might well hear the sound of a great spotted woodpecker. Thanks to the surrounding waterways you’ll also find mute swan, duck, heron, coot and the little egret… Read more.
North West: A secret garden on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal
As the Leeds & Liverpool winds its way across the north west, it passes close to West Wood, a patch of fascinating woodland in the Aire Valley between Shipley and Pudsey, on the edge of Bradford. This wood is only a short distance from the canal and makes a superb diversion. The 19-acre site is a wonder at any time of the year, thanks to its combination of ancient woodland and the remains of the imposing house that once stood here. As well as twisted and gnarled oaks, beech, horse chestnut, sycamore, rowan, birch and holly, you might see blackbirds, great tits, robins, wood pigeons, wrens, jays and blackcaps. Shrews and moles have been spotted, and roe deer also live in the woods… Read more.
North East: Wildflower glades along the Calder & Hebble Navigation
Elland Park Wood by the Calder & Hebble Navigation is one of the best waterside woodlands in the north east, featuring some stunning bluebell glades as well as other spring flowers, birds and trees. But it’s the bluebells that have made this wood famous. As well as the splendid bluebell meadows, there are numerous other wildflowers and mushrooms as well as birds, such as treecreepers, jays and buzzards. You can also see evidence of the area’s industrial heritage in the form of the bell pits, which are early coal mines so named because people dug sideways around the bottom of the pit, propping the walls up with tree trunks, creating a hole that is the shape of a bell… Read more.
Find even more ideas for days out on the Canal & River Trust website.