This year’s pandemic has affected all of terms in mental health, whether we have suffered isolation during lockdown or anxiety in the face of uncertain futures. At Obelisk Support, we take mental wellbeing seriously and have been supporting our legal consultants and staff throughout the pandemic with wellbeing resources and inspiration. Today’s ideas for nature walks and activities, from quiet city streets to awe-inspiring ancient paths, will bring you a breath of fresh air and help you improve your mental wellbeing.
Did you know that it takes 12 minutes to walk from Liverpool Street Station to Brick Lane? 18 minutes to walk from Victoria Station to Big Ben? Since the start of the pandemic, Londoners have been looking at ways to travel and commute around the city safely. Heavy-traffic streets are not the most relaxing places and choosing pleasant routes require a fair bit of local knowledge. This is why an initiative like Footways hits the right spot for urban walkers as it features a network of quiet and interesting streets for walking in central London. The best part? It connects major places (British Museum, Covent Garden, Southbank Centre) via accessible streets. This map could come in very handy when you have visitors in town or for your own urban adventures.
Lost Paths: Don’t Lose Your Way
In February 2020 when lockdown was looming on the horizon, The Ramblers, the walking charity, launched a nationwide initiative to search and map an estimated 10,000 miles of historic paths, which people have used for centuries, that were missing from modern maps and were at risk of being lost forever. Why did it matter? If not claimed by 2026, the Government cut-off date, it would no longer be possible to add them to the maps and the public’s right to access them would not be protected in the future. Lucky for us, Don’t Lose Your Way was a success and within six weeks, thousands of people joined the search and mapped 100% of the UK. You can join the movement to help preserve these paths in the future or if you have a favourite path to share, send your stories to The Ramblers.
Shinrin-yoku (forest bathing) was developed in the 1980s in Japan. Although people had been taking walks in the country’s forests for centuries, new studies showed that such activity could reduce blood pressure, lower cortisol levels and improve concentration and memory. A chemical released by trees and plants, called phytoncides, was found to boost the immune system. Forest bathing has become a wonderful way to boost your mental health for free – all you need is a forest. Wondering where to find good forest bathing spots near you?
- Forestry England shares top tips to start forest bathing in England
- Visit Scotland shares 11 beautiful places to go forest bathing in Scotland
- The National Trust has a list of places to forest bathe all around the UK
Are you considering incorporating a workout into your walking routine? Outdoor gyms are open fitness facilities that you can use without booking – just turn up and use them at your leisure. To find an outdoor gym near you (and plan a nice walk to get to it), check out The Great Outdoor Gym Activate app or Fresh Air Fitness’ online site locator.
Scavenger Hunts & Beyond for Children
Wellbeing is not defined quite the same when you are 6 years old as when you are, say, quite a bit older. The Woodland Trust is a treasure trove of ideas to take the children outside and have them enjoy a wild romp, from nature scavenger hunts to making a fairy door (which could very well be used as temporary prop on a walk) or building a den.
Look for Ancient Trees
You do not need to live in Fangorm Forest on Middle-Earth to channel your inner Ent. The oldest and most important trees of the UK have a venerable online following on the website of The Woodland Trust which maps our ancient tree heritage. You can search the map for ancient trees near you. Alternatively if you know of an ancient tree that is not on the map, you are invited to contact The Woodland Trust and add your tree to the map.
Another way to walk to an ancient tree is to find Britain’s Tree of the Year. Each year, The Woodland Trust crowns Britain’s Tree of the Year after publishing a shortlist. This was the 2019 shortlist – are any of these trees near you?
Walk & Swim
Combining two outdoor activities known to improve people’s mental health and wellbeing, you can also go on a walks to find a wild swimming spot. The Kenwood Ladies Pond Association published a handy book called Wild Swimming Walks which includes 28 car-free days out across southern and eastern England to walk, swim and have cake. Elsewhere in the country, you may want to contact your local wild swimming groups (many are active on Facebook) or check the wild swimming map on the website of the Outdoor Swimming Society. What’s not to love?
Enjoy your time outside as the days grow shorter and colder and remember the saying, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing”. You will never regret a day outside and as lockdown has shown all too well, staying inside is not good for anybody’s mental health.