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Walk This Way – National Tree Week

Once again, The Tree Council is marking the start of the winter tree planting season with their National Tree Week commencing on 28th November 2020. (For full information, please check their website.)

Across the United Kingdom, woodlands play a vital role in the ecosystem, with ancient woodland being one of the rarest of habitats. From mammals to fungi, birds to insects, trees are home, hotel, and supermarket to an incredibly rich and complex community of species. Veteran oak trees can have over 600 different species dependent upon them for survival: other tree species can be equally as important, by sustaining large numbers of individual species. Planting trees is a vital task to provide a sustainable future for many vulnerable and endangered species, but it takes many human generations to create one veteran oak or beech. Protecting our ancient woodlands is something that all of us should take seriously. Ancient woodlands are those that can be traced back to 1600AD (1750AD in Scotland), i.e. prior to woodland planting being common, and they comprise only 2.4% of the United Kingdom by land area.

Trees have been an integral part of mankind’s journey through the millennia and, even in this era of ever-evolving technology, we are still dependent upon them (though many do not realise it). Nowadays, we may not forage for food beneath the leafy canopy, nor fell trees with axes to build homes, but still, we need them.
Almost 100 years ago, Dr. Boris P. Tokin discovered that trees release complex organic compounds, which he called phytoncides, into the atmosphere. These compounds are used by trees and other plants to help them combat disease and decay. Recent studies are now revealing that these same compounds may also help fortify our own immune systems when inhaled, increase happiness, and reduce stress levels. Other studies are showing how time spent walking through woods may help to increase pain thresholds and reduce the incidence of type-2 diabetes.

Of course, all regular walkers have known for years the benefits of walking through woods: the feel of textured bark on your palms; the sounds of bird song and the wind whispering through the leaves; the joy of kicking up dried leaves and feeling them scrunch beneath your feet to release earthy, coffee-like aromas; and the sight of dappled sunlight painting the air. Not forgetting, the joy of sharing these experiences with like-minded friends.

To coincide with National Tree Week, many Walkers are Welcome towns will be holding woodland walks to celebrate the beauty and importance of these varied habitats, subject to Covid-19 restrictions. For details of available walks as they are added go to our What’s On page but be aware that these details are all subject change at short notice.

So, if you are feeling a bit lonely or under the weather, head to the woods for a dose of nature’s remedy.

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