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'Bathing' yourself in nature is scientifically proven to have multiple health benefits.

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Forest Holidays: Happiness (Proven) Amongst The Trees

Susan Clark

If you go down to the woods today (and stay at least until tomorrow) you're sure to come home feeling a whole lot better says Susan Clark, who recommends holing up in one of the UK's Forest Holidays' log cabins for a day or two ...

The Japanese have a name for it; shinrin-yoku, or 'forest bathing' and if you've ever spent any length of time nestled under the canopy of a forest of trees, you don't need me to tell you it does wonders for your head, your heart and your soul.

According to researchers at Tokyo's Nippon Medical School, spending time in the woods can seriously boost your immune system too. Researchers there reported that women who spent between two and four hours in the woods on two consecutive days experienced a nearly 50 per cent increase in the activity of the immune system's disease-fighting white blood cells. This, if true, is completely staggering!

And so, having just spent two whole days (never mind hours) in a swish log cabin tucked away in a forest in deepest Cornwall, I have not only recharged my physical, spiritual and mental batteries but, according to science, I am also ready to face down any summer bug thinking to pass my way this week.

Actually, I really like those stories which hit the headlines and tell you that scientists have only gone and proven what most of us already intuitively know - namely that being out in or close to Nature is very, very good for you.

There's a whole new academic field emerging, loosely around the term Nature Engagement, and in the last month alone I have caught the tail end of news items reporting that spending time outdoors - specifically in green spaces - actually changes brainwave patterns to generate more of that elusive emotion most of us recognise as...er... happiness.

And if that were not enough to convince you to switch off the iPad, iPhone, iPod and PC and get yourself outdoors, there are some psychologists who now swear the combined benefits of exposure to Nature are on a par with the combined benefits of being in a good marriage.

I will admit I was not at my sunniest (or most happily married) when we finally lurched up to the front door of our log cabin and not least because, having printed the directions from the holiday company's own website ("embedded google maps" said the husband with the kind of flourish of endless pages of directions that meant this will definitely get us there) we had wasted an hour driving in what felt like circles looking for a left-hand turn which turned out to be on the right.

Worth a mention since it is probably wise to take the time before leaving home to work out exactly where Deerpark forest actually is - as opposed to where one or both of you think it might be. I can't speak for the other seven destinations scattered across the UK but I don't think it was just us; it really was quite tricksy to find.

Never mind. All the stress of stopping to ask for directions only to blank the minute someone tries telling you where the place is (or where they think it might be) evaporated as we stepped into a two-day bubble that was all about chillaxing in the woods - private balcony hot tub fired up day and night and included in the cost of the cabin.

"Just like Centre Parcs" pronounced the husband, who has never been to Centre Parcs. "I could live here," he added, tapping the wall to check the wood was as sturdy as it looked. It was, and believe me, coming from my very own Eco Warrior this is High Praise indeed.

We had been allocated a cabin that overlooked the Millpond and for me, it was that sense of being completely cocooned amid the green overhang of the willow and alder trees that made the setting so spectacular and the whole experience so memorable. The moving picture-postcard wildlife on the pond and the birds - including a heron who seemed to like the canopy screening as much as I did and who came by not once but twice to preen and dry off - was an unexpected bonus and actually, I was very impressed.

These sites appeal to couples and families and, judging from the people I saw on site, folk of all ages. Great attention has been paid to privacy and screening and so to be honest, you will find yourself spoiled for choice. If rubber duck racing and 'holiday fun' is your thing, you can take part in that (and other camp activities), if you fancy a massage in your cabin you can pre-book one and there are also bikes for hire.

But if, like us, your stay is short and your idea of heaven is to sit in the hot tub watching the rain splashing on the pond and listening to the wind rustling through the tree leaves as the birds all settle for the night, then you won't need to step more than a few paces from the open plan living area to your private balcony.

The cabins have been well and thoughtfully equipped but the floors are wooden and hence cold and, if you've brought the dog, a bit slippery for Fido. I had packed endless towels (including doggie ones and so we used those to solve that problem) but I could see the dog was a bit put out to have less freedom than she is used to. That said, it's great to be able to bring the dog at all - a number of the cabins have been designated dog-friendly - so I am not complaining.

If you like self catering, if you leave home often enough to know what you can't live without and if you're adaptable enough to settle quickly into new surroundings you will reap multiple benefits from a Forest Holiday break. There was no phone coverage on the site (although the retreat centre has a pay phone and wi-fi) so we simply flipped back to the 1980s and lounged around reading ACTUAL BOOKS and, on the Sunday morning, old-fashioned newspapers.

It was bliss.

We were celebrating a wedding anniversary, a birthday and the end of quite a tough academic year one way or another and I can't think of a more perfect place to have holed up for a couple of days before we head into what's left of summer.

For our original report on the psychological benefits of being in Nature, click here

Susan Clark, who is managing editor was a guest of Forest Holidays; for details of all destinations, cabin types, activities and prices click here: 

To book your own Forest Holiday, check out the current special summer offer below:

20% off Forest Holidays for Summer 2013

The Ecologist is delighted to offer you 20% discount off all Forest Holidays taken during July and August 2013. Choose from one of eight idyllic sites across the UK exclusively on breathtaking Forestry Commission land. Soak up the serenity of the forest around you from the comfort of your sumptuous cabin, perhaps luxuriating with a glass of champagne in your own private hot tub under a starlit sky, or maybe enjoying a soothing in-cabin spa treatment.

Or pack the day with action and adventure, hiring bikes or trying your hand at archery, falconry, pony trekking or a range of other pre-bookable activities. Simply enter the promotional code FHECOLOGIST13 when booking via www.forestholidays.co.uk or quote the code when booking via telephone on 0845 130 8223. If you've already booked your summer break for this year, you can still enjoy a 10% discount for all holidays taken from September onwards, by quoting the same FHECOLOGIST13 code.

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