Forests, Woods and Fantastic Fungi
Welcome to the new Simon Scott Landscaping GARDEN WOW list. This one has a particular focus on the beautiful landscapes and ‘natural gardens’ that are the woods and forests around us in Lewes, East Sussex. These places have become even more cherished as spaces of retreat and comfort in 2020 and we have certainly loved soaking up their wonder on long walks this year. In this month’s GARDEN WOW list we highlight the incredible WOW of woods, forests, their systems of communication and their fantastic fungi. We provide links to an amazing film about fungi and to animations explaining the ‘wood wide web’ and the ‘story of flowers’ in all their wonder. The animations are a lovely way to introduce children to the magic of nature. We get excited about the lost woods of the low weald and downs project which will have a huge impact on Sussex and which will restore a whole 400 square km of woods around us. We will look at the meditative practice of Shinrin-Yoku, otherwise known as ‘forest bathing’ and link to a lovely guide to get you started. We are excited to discover and share with you the storytelling ‘walk in the wild’ project. We will also be highlighting the brilliant National Tree week with links to some great recordings of their online events. This one’s Full of WOW’S! We do hope you enjoy.
Forest bathing and a walk in the wild WOW:
We have both always loved walking in the woods and have both done so since we we were both children. It has now become a regular activity we do with our own family. On woodland walks, we are always looking up and being mesmerised by the towering trees above, the sound of the wind through the rustling leaves, the dance of light peeping through the canopy and the brilliant hide and seek opportunities provided by the trunks and the shadows they produce. The woods are both calming and invigorating at the same time, after a walk you always somehow breathe more steadily and feel revived. It wasn’t until recently that there has been a real focus on the health benefits that the very act of being ‘present’ in the woods induces. The art of forest bathing (Shinrin-Yoku) has had much press in recent years, developed by the Japanese in the 1980’s and proven to positively effect the response of our nervous systems and reduce the levels of the stress hormone cortisol. It has now become an important part of preventative healthcare and healing in Japanese medicine. Forestry England have a wonderful simple introduction to forest bathing and have created a lovely FREE forests for well being booklet which gives a simple step by step guide to forest bathing and also includes other great ideas for adventuring. We were also delighted to find and to share with you their incredible Autumn walks in the South-East link. The closest of their recommended walks is Friston Forest, Sussex, which we highly recommend. New Tier restrictions mean that some of these will be out of bounds for now but of course there are many lovely walks in much more local woods near us in Lewes, East Sussex still full of Autumn/Winter delight and colour.
We were really excited to discover November’s Guardian article ‘Once upon a time…there was a magical storytelling walk in a Sussex forest’ written by Jane Dunford and of course had to include it here for those of you who like a forest adventures. It highlights the work of Nana Tomova, based in Sussex and who as well as being a mental health pharmacist is also a nature guide and story teller. Do check out her website where you too can have a ‘walk in the wild’ experience guided by Nana in the woods. Nana has also set up a new podcast full of wonderful stories. Do listen if you get the chance. At the end of the story of ‘The Willow Wife’, Nano reads out the beautiful poem by Mary Oliver ‘When I am among the trees’, it feels very poignant, do search it out if you can.
National Tree Week and the Lost Wood Project WOW:
The Tree Council ran National Tree Week from 28th November to 6th December 2020. Since 1975 the organisation has planted millions of trees across the UK, by gathering together people at the start of every tree planting season to care for existing and to plant new trees. This year planting together in groups couldn’t happen, however not to be defeated they instead curated a free online programme of events, including talks, art and music, all of these talks have been recorded and can now be accessed from their website. Check out their programme of events.
We have recently found out about The Lost Woods of the Low Weald and Downs Project which aims to restore areas of woods from Pulborough to the fringes of Lewes, in fact a whole 400 square km of them. It’s a multi partnered project and we are so pleased that this is happening around us. Without intervention there was a real risk that these woods would have been lost altogether and amongst many aims, one of them is a focus on working with schools to get more children learning in a woodland environment and also ensuring that local people have access to the woods. To find out more about this and see developments check out the projects dedicated facebook page.
Wood Wide Web and Fungi WOW:
Developments in science means that we now know so much more about not just what’s above ground but also about what goes on under our feet in woods and forests. We absolutely love this short child friendly film called ‘How Trees secretly talk to each other’ made for the BBC, which explores the intricate workings of the world beneath us called the wood wide web for good reason.
We also recommend watching the documentary film Fantastic Fungi directed by Louie Schwartzberg which includes very spectacular footage of growth and decay of Fungi and explores the potential of using Fungi for medicine and healing. This film is not for children because of, amongst other things it’s focus on Fungi’s mind altering potentials, but we thought it was a fascinating watch. We also are very much looking forward to listening to Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake, which is currently an audio book available on bbc sounds. Entangled life is a book about ‘how fungi make our worlds, change our minds and shape our futures.’
If you are based in East Sussex and would like to buy some locally sourced mushrooms do follow the instagram profile of @sussexmushrooms who provide local gourmet mushrooms and are based in Lewes.
The Story of Flowers WOW:
Do also check out Japanese artist Azuma Makoto’s wonderful artwork ‘Story of Flowers’ which is a botanical animation developed for children to show the lifecycle of flowers. Four minutes of real wonder.
We hope you’ve enjoyed these WOW’s as much as we have. Wishing you lots of wonderful woodland adventures in 2021.
Sophie and Simon