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Culture, Events, People, Places

What do forests have to do with wellbeing?

At Forestry England we know that forests are places to seek adventure, find escape and make memories. Together with Merrell we’re inviting you to come and experience the wellbeing benefits of forests for yourself!

Research shows that spending just two hours a week in nature significantly improves our health and satisfaction. Being among trees helps to reduce stress, improves our mood and reduces the risk of poor mental health. And on top of the wellbeing benefits that come from connecting with nature, there is an intrinsic link between our own health and wellbeing, and that of the world around us. The more time we spend in forests, going for a walk, enjoying ourselves, the more likely we are to feel part of the world around us, and be inspired to do what we can to protect it.

What will your forest moment be?

Seek adventure – Forest Runner

This autumn we have offered people a chance to challenge themselves and enjoy the freedom, fresh air, and scenery of the nation’s forests with our new running series: Forest Runner.

We are delighted to have Merrell as the official Forest Runner event sponsors. Not only are Merrell providing some brilliant prizes, but they have also been encouraging participants along the way, sharing top trail running tips and advice in the run up to the events.
We’ve been working alongside Merrell to promote mental and physical health benefits of spending time in the outdoors, with Forest Runner allowing people of all abilities to experience some much needed escapism in beautiful forest locations across England. If you missed the Forest Runner events this year, why not sign up for Virtual Forest Runner [LINK] and take to the trails at a time that suits you!

Find escape – Forests for Wellbeing Trails

Forests offer unique sensory experiences, a chance to regain balance and escape from the pressures of everyday life. The sounds, sights and smells of the forest play a role in reducing stress by stimulating the senses, such as the subtle shifts in temperature to the scent of pine needles crushed under-foot. Did you know that studies show that people relax best while seeing greens and blues?

We’re often swept up in our busy lives of to-do lists, commitments, notifications pinging on digital devices, constantly thinking about what we’ve got to do next or what’s just happened, rarely taking time to focus on the present moment. Nature, in contrast, provides the perfect antidote to the pressures of modern life. The forest environment softly stimulates our senses and encourages us to take notice of our surroundings and feel more connected to nature. If you take the time to notice them, the sounds of the forest, colours of the trees and scent of the plants can leave you feeling calm, focused, and positive.

Chopwell wellbeing trail Explore

Our forests for wellbeing trails invite you to take some time for you and enjoy a mindful walk through the forest. Panels along the trail prompt you to stop, notice and connect with your surroundings and yourself. At the end of the trail, we’ve asked people to tell us about their experiences via a short survey which Merrell have supported. So far, visitors have told us:

“I think it’s a brilliant idea as I’ve been struggling with my mental health and have been trying to walk daily and this was exactly what I needed. I would love to see more of these at other sites in the area so I can complete them!”

“Switched my phone off and lived in the moment, boosted my mental and physical health!”

“Great idea to raise awareness. I really enjoyed reading the panels out to my young children as I think it’s important to promote positive steps to support wellbeing from a young age.”

Discover the trail for yourself at and if we don’t have a trail at your local forest fear not, we’ve still got some simple ways to help you tune into nature wherever you are.

Make memories – Feel Good in the Forest

45% of adults in England report that they feel occasionally, sometimes or often lonely[1], 1 in 6 people are experiencing a common mental health problem, like anxiety and depression, in any given week in England[2] and 15 million people are living with one or more long-term health conditions[3]. We know that forests are a social space that brings people and communities together and never has there been a time when we’ve needed the wellbeing benefits of forests more!

Feel Good in the Forest is a new social prescribing project, launched by Forestry England, aimed at improving the physical and mental health of those most in need. The project is based in Chopwell Wood and Thames Chase Community Forests. We’ve developed a supportive programme of activities for anyone who is looking to improve their health and wellbeing, meet new people and enjoy being outdoors. People can self-refer of be referred by a support organisation or worker. All the activities are free to participants and include a very important post-activity refreshment and socialising time!

FGITF Chopwell image

Merrell have supported Feel Good in the Forest by donating shoes and clothing for the participants. This kit has enabled people to engage with the activities come rain or shine as they start to develop a lifelong love of spending time in forests!

“I really enjoyed it.  I would definitely recommend to anyone who is looking to meet new people or improve their health and well-being.”

“I usually talk myself out of doing things, but the Wednesday walk is one thing I always want to do.”

“It was great just walking round the woods and only hearing birds singing and in certain spots the sounds of running water coming from the Brooks.”

“I was very anxious about meeting new people due to my mental health, but I felt quite relaxed once I was able to engage with people socially.”

Feeling inspired?

Find out more about why heading for the trees is the perfect way to take time out: If you would like to join the challenge, please visit




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