A green view is good for you – body, mind and soul. Recent academic research on the benefits to city dwellers of green window views and time spent in public greenspace, concluded that ‘urban nature has great potential to be used as a “nature‐based solution” for improved public health.’ (You’ll find the report here). The impact of the Covid pandemic, and associated restrictions, may have given added urgency to these ideas but they are not new. Ancient Egyptian physicians prescribed walks in gardens as treatment for the mentally distressed. In the Middle Ages the cloister gardens of European monasteries served as places of rest and recuperation for the sick. A 12th century monk at Clairvaux Abbey wrote of an orchard garden:
Within this enclosure many and various trees, prolific with every sort of fruit, make a veritable grove which, lying next to the cells of those who are ill, lightens with no little solace the infirmities of the brethren… The sick man sits upon the green lawn… The lovely green of herb and tree nourishes his eyes… the earth breathes with fruitfulness and the invalid himself with eyes, ears and nostrils, drinks in the delights of colours, songs and perfumes.
In Japan, ancient Buddhist and Shinto practices taught the benefits of mindful contemplation under a leafy canopy of trees. Drawing on this history, Japanese doctors, in the 1980s, developed the concept of shinrin-yoku or forest bathing. Immersing yourself in the sights, sounds, smells and textures of the forest (or a leafy city park) was given formal recognition, allowing medics to prescribe it as a treatment for anxiety, depression, high blood pressure and other stress-related ailments.
Sometimes adults need to be reminded of things that children just know. Any child who is lucky enough to live near woodland (or a park with plenty of trees), could tell you that woods are good places to play and explore. The Chiltern beech woods of my childhood remain my image of an ideal wood but over the years I’ve come to appreciate many different kinds of woodland and urban greenspace. Our local wood, Goody Patchy, is a slightly scruffy strip of sycamore trees, sprung up last century around disused railway sidings and an old quarry. It’s not ancient woodland and doesn’t have any grand, old trees but it’s a place of green shoots and bird song, dappled shadows and autumn leaves. Best of all it’s five minutes walk from home.
Jude’s Life in Colour Challenge Green has led me on a long exploration of my greenspace photos. This is just a small selection of the images (and ideas) that were queuing up to get in to this post. The main photo (seasonal rather than actually green) was taken in late March last year in Goody Patchy. The wild plum trees there are just coming into flower now.