Long ago in ancient times, King Cyrus the Great of Persia built lush green gardens in his crowded urban capital to increase human health and promote a sense of calm in the busy city. Fast forward to today, more than 2500 years later, and urban dwellers like us Canberrans still need nature to soothe and heal our weary, troubled, and unhealthy bodies, minds and souls.
Hence the popularity of 'forest bathing' in these modern times. Forest bathing, or shinrin-yoku, is a practice that developed in Japan during the 1980s as an important part of their national health programme. Basically, forest bathing is a traditional Japanese practice of walking thoughtfully or slowly into the forest and taking in all of the forest's sights, smells, sounds and textures. Plenty of scientific studies support the health benefits of spending time under the trees, such as increased energy levels, improved sleep, a boosted immune system, and reduced blood pressure. In fact, it's thanks in part to forest bathing that Japan has some of the lowest rates of heart disease in the world.
Living in the Bush Capital like we do, we're very fortunate that we are surrounded by plenty of trees and greenery to keep us healthy. But we Canberrans are also the products of our times. According to Australian social researcher Hugh MacKay in his latest book Australia Reimagined, we live at a time when we have-amongst other things- increasing income inequality, shrinking households, high rates of relationship breakdown, busy lives and an increasing reliance on information technology, all of which have contributed to Australia being a much more fragmented society. And in spite of Canberra being surrounded by bushland, there are many of us who don't spend a lot of time in it, thanks to our busy, fragmented, indoor kind of lives.
This is why forest bathing is a practice that we can all very easily adopt. And the good news is, we don't need to travel very far. Here are five easily accessible places in Canberra where you can get your fix of forest bathing this weekend.
1.The Cork Oak Plantation.
Located within the National Arboretum, the Cork Oak Plantation is more than 100 years old. First planted in 1917 and having survived the devastating Canberra bushfires in 2003, the Cork Oak Plantation is a lush, enchanting place where you can walk quietly amongst the trees and feel immediately at peace.
2.The Himalayan Cedar Forest. Also located within the National Arboretum and also over 100 years old. Take a stroll amongst the tall, majestic Himalayan cedar trees, breathe in their scent, and bathe in their splendor.
3.Australian National Botanic Gardens. At the Australian National Botanic Gardens, you can wander on the Eucalypt Lawn amongst the more than 70 species of Australia's most famous trees. And you can also do a bit of 'rainforest' bathing amongst the lush ferns and towering trees of Rainforest Gully.
4.Fetherston Gardens. Fetherston Gardens is an urban parkland oasis tucked away in Weston Creek. The gardens were originally part of the Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT) School of Horticulture that was located on the site. The gardens are spread over 3.5 hectares, linked by pathways and trails. As you stroll along the paths, you'll come across many delights, including a small arboretum, conifer grove and woodland gardens. Fetherston Gardens is the perfect spot to get your nature fix.
5. Glebe Park.
Located in the city and spread over some four hectares, Glebe Park is a tranquil green space with fully-grown English elm trees and English oak trees. Stroll or sit under the trees and bathe in their presence.
"Keep close to nature's heart...and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean."