Shinrin-yoku or forest bathing. When I first read about forest bathing the cynic in me scoffed, “Jeezus, how many gimmicky ideas can humanity come up with?” As curious as it may appear, I have reevaluated the matter. Why? Well, it was an accident really.
In reading the aforementioned book by Bill Bailey I learnt more. It was the Japanese Government that validated shinrin-yoku in the 1980s. After research confirmed the hypothesis that forest walkers experienced significantly less stress and anxiety than urban walkers, the idea became a public health policy. Hence the very real, legitimate and officially mandated practice of shinrin-yoku, forest bathing or put more simply absorbing the atmosphere of the forest.
I learnt this with a little embarrassment because I have clearly been a shinrin-yoku practitioner for years. Walking and cycling in the bush have long been favourite pastimes, as soothing to the mind and cleansing of the soul as anything I can imagine. I realise now I have practiced forest bathing and even refined the practice. My own specialised sub discipline will now be called forest basking. This is where I find myself paused, stationary, sometimes mid step, sometimes sitting, sometimes lying down looking either up, across or down, grinning, goggling or gasping or all three at once, in awe at nature’s beauty and evolutionary accomplishments.
I am no shirin-yoku guru or forest bathing shaman, but I am an advocate by default because I do my best to promote these wonderful activities publicly and widely. Why? Because if they are good for individual lifestyle and well-being they are good for societal wellbeing. If shinrin-yoku encourages people into positive low impact forest experiences those people become advocates for the forest and habitat gets improved as well. And who doesn’t want such a desirable set of outcomes from the simple act of taking some time out in the forest?
What is so secret about Mt Wombat? You would think every local knows about it, most have driven up to the summit to take in the magnificent views and returned home again. Well, maybe the question should be rephrased. How many have really seen Mt Wombat? The views are only part of the story. When driving you miss so much. You have to either cycle or walk for the full forest, granite and wildlife experience. If you are used to time on a bike, a mountain bike or hybrid will do the job. The 16km return from Strathbogie Township is a great way to pass a rewarding half day of exploration. Granted it is a steady incline and the final approach may require some walking your bike. You will not be disappointed and it is all downhill on the way back.Otherwise, ebikes are perfect for this route. You will still get your workout, granted with more comfort. That final steep approach will be taken in your stride. Stopping along the way to soak up the forest experience will be hard to resist. If cycling isn’t an option or you want an even slower immersion in the landscape, walking is the way to go. Park at the intersection of Mt Wombat Rd and Mt Wombat Lookout Rd for a lovely 5.5km summit return. It is truly as pretty as can be.See what secrets you can discover in Mt Wombat Forest.No matter which method of transporting yourself you choose, make sure you are appropriately equipped for self reliant cycling or walking. Carry food, water, First Aid, nav aids and be SunSmart.
I recently read David Attenborough’s 2020 book, “A life on our planet: My witness statement and a vision for the future”. Ever since, I have been contemplating how on earth it will be possible to action the plans he outlines for preserving functional global climate systems, biodiversity, and saving ourselves from ourselves.
Rewilding is one solution Attenborough envisages. A small example may be when many urban neighbourhoods develop their own small forests and foster biolinks. The cumulative effect could be significant. Just as each relatively small piece of new built environment and mono cultural agribusiness diminishes our capacity to recover, each relatively small piece of new ecosytem and forest enhances it. See www.bbc.co.uk/news/stories-56003562