Updated: Apr 25, 2020
By Kathryn: Guest Author
I’d say I’m a pretty average Londoner. I work in the city, I commute about an hour each way; I enjoy my job but I am pretty exhausted come the weekend. I enjoy getting out and seeing friends, and doing things but let’s be honest – most weekends see me slumped on the sofa in front of Netflix, recharging ready for another week of work.
I love the greenness of London and as I used to work for a charity that protects outdoor recreational space, I’m probably a bit more aware of how important these green spaces are for us, and the joy of nature. But even so: Sunday = Netflix + sofa.
However, this Sunday I hauled myself out of bed at a (for me) slightly alarming time, donned my walking boots and new rain jacket and headed off to get me some of this nature. It was a gorgeous crisp winters day, which I normally would have experienced from the safety of (you guessed it) my sofa.
11am rolls around however, and I am hovering outside Chingford train station giving the side eye to others hovering around, wondering if they’re also here for the same walk. Turns out they are, and we’re all here to have a wander through Epping Forest. I had never been there before, and was really chuffed with myself that I’d made the effort to finally get there. I chatted to another walker about how the added motivation of an organised Meetup is just enough of a push to get you to come. I mean, there’s nothing stopping me going for a walk round Epping Forest or any other lovely park on a Sunday. But I don’t.
Chantal’s walks are specifically pitched at those who, like me, don’t get out walking that much, but could really benefit from the outdoors time. Although she avoided the term ‘forest bathing’, derived from the Japanese concepts of Shinrin Yoku, for its potentially New Age connotations, I’d already had an animated chat with another lady about this latest concept for making the most of the natural world. Apparently if you immerse yourself in a forest for an hour or two, the benefits can last over a month. ‘Excellent’, thought my sofa-loving side, ‘don’t have to do this again for a month’.
We stopped by Connaught Water, where, despite growing up near a nature reserve made of flooded gravel pits and birds a-plenty, I still learnt a few facts about ducks. Do you dive or dabble? Quite a divisive question in the duck world.
There were families out walking, a variety of dogs (each of which I made a beeline for), horses being ridden, and gorgeous autumnal colours still around. I had a great time absorbing the surroundings, taking in the bird song and having a laugh with my fellow wanderers.
And of course the walk was topped off with some tea and cake! Butlers Rest had a delicious sounding menu but I restrained myself and took some gluten free orange cake home.
I’d had a hard week: work, life, the usual. All I wanted to do was my standard weekend semi-hibernation. And yes, I knew all the research which says that exposure to green space reduces the risk of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, premature death, stress, and high blood pressure. I needed the proven immune system boost, having sported conjunctivitis and a cold for over a week.
But I know I wouldn’t have got myself into the greenery without Chantal’s Wanderfilled Walks providing the impetus.
The end of the day
Back on my sofa, my legs felt zingy and my cheeks rosy and I had that fabulous sense of wellbeing that getting outside into nature can give you.
And far from waiting a month to ‘top-up’ my forest bathing, I’m heading to Crystal Palace Park next week for the next one! #BetterBeSunny
Kathryn has lived in London for most of the last decade and is currently working in change management for a large charity. She will be seen on future walks, especially if there are cute dogs, horses and someone who can carry her over large puddles!