Shinrin-Yoku. That’s Forest Bathing in Japanese to you & I. And before you dismiss this as being a little hippy out there, consider this. Forest Bathing, or the act of spending time in nature has been proven to be good for you. Yes, I know, talk about stating the obvious. It’s like those ridiculous studies which state that eating bad stuff is bad for you.
I gotta admit though, the stress reduction/ good for you thing was just a fringe benefit. I was mainly thinking of the hot tubs. Yep, you read right. Hot tubs are the most popular feature of Forest Holidays, purveyors of what it says on the tin – holidays in a forest.
The girls and I set off on Friday afternoon to Winchester to pick up our car, but there’s also a shuttle service should you require it. Blackwood Forest is only a 20 minute drive from Winchester station and after stopping for crucial supplies (Fizz, some food & more Bubbly) we head straight there to check in.
The cabins are set out at a reasonable distance from each other and you head to an office/ shop to pick up your keys, which also stocks what you may need for the stay. We’ve chosen what’s called the Golden Oak hideaway because this is the one with the hot tub, which as you’ve probably already realised, is the main reason we’re here. And of course all that nature stuff.
The cabins are beautiful, big comfy beds, stocked with cutlery & crockery, state of the art telly which you can pay to access wifi/ movies etc, large bathrooms and a lot of fluffy towels. I do have a few niggles though, so let me just get the whinge off my chest now. These cabins are definitely on the premium end of self-catering, so I don’t think it would be too much of a stretch to throw in some matches, dishwashing tablets, basic kitchen staples and some fairy liquid. Most self-catering places throw in the basics because really, how irritating is it to have to either bring these things with you, or worse to go and buy these basics only to cart them home again. But wait, conveniently they are sold for a ridiculously inflated price in the shop. Co-inc-idence.
Forest Holidays, please, If you supply logs, supply some matches. Provide the basics, people have paid a lot to be here. If you say you’ll come and check someone in, then turn up and don’t just leave them wasting away with starvation (that’s only a mild exaggeration) while you don’t show up. And for goodness sake, don’t make people pay for wifi. Ok that’s my complaints over – now let me tell you what fun we had.
We were pretty knackered after a long week so we opted for takeaway Chinese curled up in front of the telly, demolishing our bubbly. The local takeaways do usually oblige by delivering to the forest but the very friendly guy on the other end of the phone confessed to staffing issues so after ordering one of just about everything on the menu so helpfully provided in the shop, we picked up our order from Winchester.
Forest Holidays offers a bunch of activities as well (Before you think we just spent the whole weekend drinking bubbly) – some are quite extravagant (the spa treatments) but the ones that caught our eye were a range of Forest ranger activities – offered up for kids of all ages. We opted for the Night time walk, kicking off just as dusk was setting in. We’re offered up nightvision goggles and we make our way through the woods with our helpful and most interesting guide. Unfortunately we didn’t spot any wildlife (I’m not really sure how we were ever going to – given we’d probably scare them all off), but we learned some truly fascinating things about the area we’re in and all about the local flora and fauna. It takes your eyes some time to get used to the dark but it really is remarkable how your eyes can take in so much more when not faced with the daily light pollution of the big city. Definitely an activity not to be missed and with the added bonus where you feel you’ve really earned that evening’s respite in the tub.
The hot tub is undoubtedly the highlight of this little slice of Forest paradise. It upgrades Forest Holidays from your average self catering break (Albeit very nice self break) to one of pure glamour – It’s super easy to use and after a day of sightseeing (such hard work that), there was nothing that came close to laying back in the tub and gazing up at the stars twinkling through the foliage, chilled glass in hand.
Will I book with Forest Holidays again? Without a doubt. I’ll be needing another round of Shinrin Yoku pretty soon.