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05th Nov 2021

You can now go forest bathing in Wicklow – would you try it?

Fiona Frawley

For many of us over the past 19 months, the only aspect of life that didn’t change was the stressful days at work.

If anything, they got even more stressful. Thankfully, for some there’s been more space and time to get outdoors, and feel the benefits of switching off for a while through hiking, swimming, cycling or whatever you’re into yourself. And if you feel like you could do with deepening your connection with nature, forest bathing could be just the ticket.

Forest bathing (or shinrin-yoku) is about immersing yourself completely in the forest atmosphere through all of your senses. Contrary to what the name suggests, you don’t have to go into the water to forest bathe. Instead, you focus on what you can see, hear, smell, touch and taste.

Avonmore Forest Bathing is a group offering guided forest bathing walks on routes across Wicklow. We tried out one of their first sessions on the woodland walk at Glen of the Downs last week, and here are our thoughts.

Forest bathing sessions usually last about 2 or 3 hours, during which you cover about 1 or 2 kilometres. It’s a slow, purposeful walk with plenty of breaks allowing you to notice sights, sounds and smells within the forest you usually wouldn’t on a quicker jaunt. Our session was a quicker introductory one of about 40 minutes, but even at that I felt pretty relaxed and, dare I even say at peace afterwards.

Throughout the walk, there are options to participate in invitations. It could be something along the lines of stopping, closing your eyes and listening to the sounds of the forest, reaching out and touching some of the forest foliage or sharing verbally with the group what feelings the forest evokes within you. It might feel a little silly at first, but when in Rome and all that. No harm getting completely into it.

During my walk, I ended up chatting with a poet from Roscommon who told me about the protests in the Glen of the Downs woods throughout the 80s and 90s, during which there were proposals to widen the motorway in the area. Protesters set up camp in the trees to protect the woodlands (think Lisa in that one episode of the Simpsons) and spoiler alert, they succeeded. Apologies to anyone who’s stuck in daily traffic on the N11, but I’d take the forest walk over an extra lane for the motorway any day. I guess that’s the effect forest bathing has on a gal.

If you’d like to give forest bathing a go, you can find out more on the Avonmore Forest Bathing WEBSITE. Definitely worth a look.

Header image via Instagram/forestbathingwicklow

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