Wednesday 21st June is the summer solstice, the longest day in our year and the point when the daylight hours begin to shorten. The length of the day is important for wildlife as it contributes to the timing of spring and autumn. For our deciduous trees however, it isn’t actually the length of the day, more the length of the night that helps initiate budburst in the spring, and leafdrop in the autumn. Trees use sunlight to produce the food they need to grow through a process called photosynthesis.
At summer solstice, the trees have the greatest amount of time to feast. In the process of this feasting, the trees are absorbing carbon dioxide, removing the carbon to convert into carbohydrates and releasing the oxygen back into the environment. As well as releasing the oxygen, trees also give off something called phytoncides. These chemicals have been shown to boost our immune systems so spending time in and around trees and woodland can improve our health. Studies have shown that trees give off more of these health-giving compounds in the summer.
Spending time quietly enjoying trees and woodland can also improve our mental as well as physical health. Japan has led the science and developed new health therapies known as Shinrin Yoku, or forest bathing: simply being quiet and calm, observing nature and relaxing in forest environments. Why not have a go?
Here are some top Forest Bathing tips (courtesy of the Forestry Commission):
- Turn off your devices to give yourself the best chance of relaxing, being mindful and enjoying a sensory forest-based experience.
- Slow down. Move through the forest slowly so you can see and feel more.
- Take long breaths deep into the abdomen. Extending the exhalation of air to twice the length of the inhalation sends a message to the body that it can relax.
- Stop, stand or sit, smell what’s around you, what can you smell?
- Take in your surroundings using all of your senses. How does the forest environment make you feel? Be observant, look at nature’s small details.
- Sit quietly using mindful observation; try to avoid thinking about your to-do list or issues related to daily life. You might be surprised by the number of wild forest inhabitants you see using this process.
- Keep your eyes open. The colours of nature are soothing and studies have shown that people relax best while seeing greens and blues.
- Stay as long as you can, start with a comfortable time limit and build up to the recommended two hours for a complete forest bathing experience.
There are measurable benefits of woodland here in Monmouthshire as well. Monmouthshire County Council has carried out a study to assess the value of trees and all the services they provide us with. The I-Tree Eco study covered the urban areas between Chepstow and Undy and discovered that the trees there intercept 38,700 square metres of rainfall, helping to reduce flooding to the value of approximately £56,000. These trees alone remove 24 tonnes of pollution every year. To find out more, see www.monlife.co.uk/outdoor/green-infrastructure/green-infrastructure-partnerships-projects/gwent-green-grid-partnership/itree-eco-study/
Cllr. Catrin Maby, Monmouthshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Climate Change and the Environment said:
“We have planted 4,560 trees in Monmouthshire in the past year, and have surpassed our target of planting 10,000 trees set in 2020. Don’t forget you can support this by shopping at the Reuse Shops at Llanfoist and Five Lanes recycling centres or by keeping an eye on any newly planted trees in public areas near you. Newly planted trees need 50 litres of water a week, so you can do your bit to help keep trees alive during the hot dry summer months – a water butt to collect rainwater is a great way to save on water too. Trees are incredibly important, both for our well-being and for the environment as a whole.”
For more information about tree planting and tree maintenance in Monmouthshire visit https://www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/trees/Tags: Monmouthshire, Trees