Trees of life: forest bathing blossoms in Britain

The Japanese art of forest bathing has arrived in Britain’s woodlands. Now we can all dip a toe in, writes Joanne O’Connor, who tries it out in Norfolk

One pine tree looks very much like another. This is my first thought as I wander into the forest looking for a tree to “connect with”. When I find this special tree, I’ve been instructed to greet it like an old friend, to share what’s on my mind, maybe even give it a hug. I’m hoping to find a gnarly old oak, a mournful willow perhaps, but this is a plantation forest, the arboreal equivalent of “Pines R Us”. Oh well. This one will do. Self-consciously, I wrap my arms around a spindly sapling. We both know it’s not right, but the clock is ticking. And then I spot it, glowing in the bosky gloom – a ghostly silver birch. I make my excuses – “Sorry, I’ve just seen a better tree over there” – and make my way over to the birch. As I get closer I notice that its papery bark is covered in some kind of green fungus. I look around. I’ve lost sight of the rest of the group and my allocated 10 minutes are up. It occurs to me that this is some kind of clunky metaphor for my life: I’ve spent so long looking for the perfect tree that I’ve run out of time.

When I eventually rejoin the rest of the group, our guide invites us to share any insights gained from our tree encounter while passing around a pine cone. One of the women describes feeling a profound sense of peace. I decide not to share that none of the trees were good enough for me.

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