Stress Free in Worcestershire
April is Stress Awareness Month. Being outdoors is one of the most commonly suggested ways of alleviating stress; and for a very good reason – it works! Whether that be going for a walk in nature, growing your own food, or simply sitting and watching the world go by, being outdoors is possibly the easiest, most accessible and enjoyable way to beat feelings of stress. If you have a dog you’ll already be familiar with the feeling of wellbeing that comes from a daily excursion, but even if you don’t, there are many ways you can bring some of that feeling into your day to day life. Here where I’m based in Worcestershire, I’m lucky enough to have a wealth of stunning hills, rivers and gardens at my disposal – if you live further afield, I’d highly recommend a visit to enjoy this wonderful county and all it has to offer. You could visit Croome Court to admire the famous walled garden designed by Capability Brown, or the formal gardens at Hanbury Hall.
The bluebells at Shrawley Woods in Spring are simply incredible to walk amongst; a scent like no other. They also appear on the banks of the Malvern Hills. The Hills themselves are worth a visit; with several peaks over an 11 mile stretch they are a challenging walk; affording the hiker with views across Worcestershire, Herefordshire, Shropshire, Gloucestershire and even as far as Wales.
If flowers are your thing, later in Summer the Wick Flower Fields open to visitors before the flowers are harvested for their natural confetti. Prefer wildlife?
Then pop to one of Worcestershire’s many stunning nature reserves, such as the Knapp and Papermill where you might be lucky enough to spot an otter or a bat – both are local residents.
If gardens and hills aren’t so much your thing, you might find solace in woodland. Have you heard of Forest Bathing? Otherwise known as shinrin yoku in Japan, the practice of consciously being in nature, calmly and quietly (usually in a forest or woodland, hence its name). The Woodland Trust have also suggested it as a method for GPs to prescribe to patients as it’s been shown to improve wellbeing and decrease blood pressure, among many other benefits. If you don’t have a forest on your doorstep you can still immerse yourself in shinrin yoku by lying under any tree, gazing up at the canopy swaying in the breeze, breathing deeply, feeling the air on your face and listening to the sounds of nature all around. In Worcestershire, the Wyre Forest is an ideal place to indulge in some shinrin yoku; or a little further afield is Queenswood Arboretum – a wonderful place to spot dozens of varieties of trees – and it’s also conveniently situated for a combination visit to Hampton Court Castle with its maze and underground tunnel which emerges behind a waterfall. Not to mention the stunning wisteria tunnel in Summer.
Speaking of water – scientists are researching the benefits of being near water, and it turns out that simply hearing running water can trigger a positive response in our brains, as we are genetically predisposed to find it reassuring. A wildlife pond, birdbath, or fountain in your garden could give you this positive brain association. Here in Worcestershire, you can access water easily with the Teme and the Severn converging at Worcester. The Severn flows through Worcester itself and there’s a delightful circular walk around the river path past the Cathedral and cricket ground. In the Malvern Hills, you’ll find dozens of natural springs where locals visit to fill water containers; in the Victorian era it was a town of recuperation where people would flock to ‘take the waters’ and the waters are still celebrated; in May each spring or well is ‘dressed’ by local children, with decorations, flowers and elaborate displays.
In summary; there are many benefits to be had from being out in nature, both in your own garden and further afield. If you’d like to visit this county to get inspiration for your garden, or if you already live here and want to bring some of that natural magic into your own garden space, do drop me a message and I’ll more than happily guide you through developing your own little stress-free haven.