November 8, 2019

How can trees help you find health and happiness?

Clair Tierney

PoetryThe transformative power of forest, 2019

From the chestnut tree across the road from my house, there is the ‘Laird’s Grave Walk’, a truly immersive trail through forest. The larch trees were planted in 1929, mixed conifers added in 1989 and the area boasts the UK’s second tallest tree, the Douglas Fir. In Winter, after snow, it was a spellbinding real-life Narnia.

Walking here was restorative, therapeutic and transformative. The Japanese have coined this experience “Shinrin Yoku” or Forest Bathing: being in the forest, connecting with nature through the senses, bridging a gap between ourselves and the natural world. In Japan it is classed as preventative healthcare and healing.

However, this area was drastically altered in June 2019 when a naturally occurring fungal infection Phytopthora ramorum destroyed the larch trees and they had to be felled. Despite the scent of wood in the air and the brighter light, this absence of trees is a quiet tragedy.

After a fallow period of 3 years, the site will be replanted with conifers and deciduous trees. It will be 30 years for some of the conifers to reach full height. If I live long enough to forest bathe here again, I will be 72.