Predictions have been made for a glorious autumn display this year. Why? It’s all thanks to the weather. High levels of sunshine throughout spring, a wet June and then further sunshine in July result in trees building up lots of leaf sugar in plant tissues.
Rainbow of colour
As a consequence, you see the range of striking pigments as the green leaves in deciduous trees and other plants transform into rich shades of gold and orange through to vivid red, various hues of brown, russet and even deep purple.
The show could be even more spectacular thanks to a bout of sunshine in September, the weather remaining fairly stable in October and the recent cold nights. The vibrant display of warm, comforting tones should be a sight to behold and could well continue through to mid-November.
It’s time to wrap up warm and get your walking boots on!
Sensory activation to boost health and wellbeing
Now more than ever, we need to be spending more time outdoors and in nature, particularly in woodland, as you get the physical health-boosting benefits of the phytoncides (see previous blog). The bright colours, the heavenly scents and the sounds of the crisp leaves crunching underfoot all help to enhance your wellbeing, and we’re all going to need a boost to help us through the approaching colder, darker months with Covid rates increasing.
Slowing down, connecting mindfully to your natural surroundings and breathing in the forest air for 2-3 hours, as you do on a Shinrin-Yoku / Forest Bathing session, is proven to reduce stress, anxiety and depression and strengthen your immune system.
And it’s not only the canopy that will be flaunting its delights.
Flowers and shrubs
Gardeners World this week had a feature on autumnal blooms and there are some gorgeous choices; from the crimson glory vine with its rich red colour, the Michaelmas daisy that flowers with free abandon and the autumn-flowering crocus.
Our otherworldly fungi, with its huge variety of shape and colour, is ready to wow your every turn. Remember – no pick, no lick 🙂 but by all means feast your eyes upon the abundant delights.
On a recent walk in Micheldever Woods in Hampshire, I discovered the Amethyst Deceiver with its deep purple gills, the Yellow Stag Horn’s bright orange jelly antlers and the Beefsteak Fungus with its chunky, deep red flesh that bleeds a thin red liquid, resembling raw meat. They’re all recorded as edible, although the stag’s horn is reported to hold no flavour, nutritional value nor an enjoyable texture.
If you’re out and about and would like to identify species I can highly recommend the Seek app. I tried a few different ones and found Seek to be the most accurate, plus it gives the best user experience.
Fruits, berries and nuts
Also, the growth of autumnal fruits and berries such as spindle and blue sloes is adding even more colour to the mix.
Experts are predicting a bumper year for fruit and nuts. Andrew Smith, Forestry England’s director at Westonbirt, the National Arboretum in Gloucestershire explains: “The fruit and nut blossoms managed to escape the frost in early spring and the rain in June helped the fruits to swell. July’s sunshine and warm weather helped them to continue to grow which means we should see a great year for fruit and nuts”. I’ve definitely noticed the birds are more vocal; I think they are happy.
The story in the soil
And remember, that when trees lose their leaves in autumn, it provides the soil with nourishment supporting billions of microscopic organisms that provide the building blocks for all life in the forest.
When you are next in the woods, I encourage you to get down to ground level and collect a handful of the humus layer. It will include decaying matter; twigs, leaves, pine needles, earth, sand, perhaps a ladybird’s wing? Study your sample and then cup it in your hand and inhale deeply. The smell triggers the production of oxytocin; the love hormone. Who wouldn’t want more love in their life? 🙂
For best results get outside after recent rainfall. It’s often one of the most enjoyed activities on a Shinrin-Yoku experience, so don’t be put off – I guarantee you will be amazed.
Pause for a moment, take a slow, deep breath and notice how you’re feeling. Relaxed? Tempted to get out there? Do it – the spectacular display doesn’t last long so don’t miss it 😉
You won’t be surprised to read that I consider Autumn to be the perfect season to try Forest Bathing. On the guided experience you get to press pause and ‘just be’ for 2.5-3 hours. I am responsible for timekeeping, and I facilitate all invitations (mindfulness activities) and hold a safe space for everyone in the group reflection circles.
You’ll do group and solo invitations and the process can be incredibly cathartic. You’ll definitely get a broader depth of experience in a group, find it easier to fully unwind and leave with a deep sense of relaxation and clarity of mind.
If you’d like to join me on a guided Shinrin-Yoku session in Hampshire or Berkshire, check out the schedule of events.
Here’s a video showing the practice:
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Let me know your autumnal discoveries, and whether you forage for fungi or perhaps you’re making sloe gin?
With blessings from the autumnal forest,