Now more than ever it seems we are being asked to remember how vital nature and the natural world is to our physical and mental well-being. Being in such a beautiful part of the world means we don’t have to go far off the beaten track to find beauty, peace and tranquillity; I can think of nothing more revitalising than a walk by the River Till.
It’s an easy walk down the hill to the River Till from Etal Castle car park. At this time of year the snowdrops are fading, but the verges are now a riot of colour as daffodils and bluebells begin to emerge. The path beside the river winds through a host of both deciduous and coniferous trees; oak, sycamore, Scott’s pine, ash, hawthorn and birch, among others, some coming into bloom. Forest bathing, or shinrin yoku, an old tradition in Japanese culture, recognises the benefits to health and well-being of walking through trees and now forest bathing is becoming a popular and widespread activity all over the world. Forest bathing is all about connecting with nature, not simply passing through it.
With this in mind, forest bathing aficionados recommend walking slowly, taking time to stop along the way, pausing to appreciate the beauty of the foliage overhead or the sound of the wind through the leaves, all the while taking deep lungfuls of rich, oxygenated air.
Extending the feeling of gratitude to the trees while appreciating them is part of the reciprocal way of relating with nature that shinrin yoku encourages; there is some sense that our gratitude and appreciation is somehow beneficial to the living world in return. The other notable aspect of this riverside walk is of course, the river. The Till at Etal tumbles to make a sharp bend, after which it slows to a gentler pace before quickening once more as it reaches the rapids. Stopping to crouch close to the water’s edge I spot kingfishers and a heron. The changing voices of the river are noticeably varied along this stretch of water, and I became quite mesmerised watching the ever-changing patterns as the water swirled, rushed, flowed, and eddied.
The riverside path at Etal is wide, accessible, and well-maintained. There is a grassy area with picnic tables near the bottom of the hill for outdoor refreshments, available from nearby Lavender Tearooms during their opening hours. It is a lovely place to come to refresh mind and body; doggy companions on leads are also welcome.
By Jacqueline Kurio, Guide at Lady Waterford Hall
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