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Forest Diary

The Forest Diary, Our love affair with trees

by Communications Manager, Lisa Pearce

(enquiries.southern@forestry.gsi.gov.uk)

Put simply people love woodlands.Couple walking in College wood

On a practical level, we love trees because they provide us with food and medicines, fuel, shelter, shade, cleaner air, and the raw material for everything from paper to homes. They help to protect us from flooding and also support some of our best-loved species from the humble hedgehog to the rare and beautiful Goshawk.

But, there are deeper reasons why we love trees too.

We love our woodlands because they offer a wonderful sense of calm and peace that allows us to de-stress and relax. Whether standing still to admire the stature of ancient oaks and beeches or walking and cycling along one of the many tracks in the New Forest, nature’s health service is positive for both our mental and physical wellbeing. In fact research shows that outdoor exercise has greater physiological benefits than exercise in any other setting.

Trees also stimulate the spirit and imagination and carry deep symbolism. They gave enlightenment to Buddha, gravity to Isaac Newton and poetry to E.E. Cummings. They also offer an opportunity to celebrate and commemorate life. Indeed my own grandparents have a tree dedicated to them in Wick Wood which I regularly visit to reminisce about past times together.

Our psychological and social connection to woodlands has developed over many thousands of years from distant times when we were utilised the Forest’s resources as hunter gathers, then as farmers and now as visitors. Trees have always been close to our hearts.

Over centuries, we’ve also fallen in love with our forests and woodlands as places of myth, magic and legend that have inspired us for generations. Deeply rooted in our folk and fairy tales, they set the stage for stories of adventure, transformation and magic such as Captain Marryat’s ‘The Children of the New Forest.’

Trees also set the stage for ‘love’ itself; From declarations of love, expressed through the exchange of love tokens such as a carved ‘love spoon’; as a backdrop to a proposal; or simply a romantic walk with a loved one.

So where is the perfect spot for a proposal here in the New Forest? Well, there are a number of options available to those of you thinking of taking that next step this Valentine’s Day. From specific woodlands to individual trees, views and landmarks, here’s a few of our favorite locations:

  • As we start to move into spring, why not try a peaceful stroll around the sensory trail at the Blackwood Arboretum experiencing the different smells, textures and sounds of the huge variety of trees as they blossom in all their glory.
  • A visit to the Pondhead Inclosure near Lyndhurst would provide an opportunity to experience open rides and tracks where the sunlight hits the ground and you can even access the Limewood Hotel for a romantic lunch or afternoon tea.
  • The Forest’s ancient and ornamental woodlands offer some of the best places in the country to be dazzled by nature’s splendour. The Douglas Fir and redwoods of the Rhinefield Ornamental Drive are some of the oldest and tallest in Britain. Why not take a picnic and walk along the Tall Trees Trail and sample their magnificence at first hand.
  • For sunsets, there are some great viewpoints offering fabulous views of the Forest’s wooded and open heathland and if you’re lucky, you may even get the added bonus of seeing a glorious sunset. Why not try the car-park at Picket Post north of Ringwood or sit quietly under the Yew at Boltons Bench.
  • If you’re looking for a local landmark to propose alongside, take a visit to the Rufus Stone. Steeped in history, it’s the Forest’s famous memorial to King William II. Shot by an arrow from Walter Tyrrell. Ok not quite the same as cupid’s arrow!
  • Alternatively, if you’d like a more natural landmark, take a trip to the Knightwood Oak is the largest oak in the New Forest, at 7.4m girth, and surely one of the oldest. 

Wherever you choose to enjoy some romance in the New Forest, I’m sure you’ll agree there are plenty of places to choose from.  No doubt our love affair with trees will go on for many years to come.

For more details about the New Forest visit: www.forestry.gov.uk/newforest