We all have that place, don’t we? That one little place where we like to go to relax and unwind. That one little retreat we like to turn to when life gets too much. For Mental Health Awareness month, I want to share my special place with you. I mentioned this place to the lovely PoojaG at LifesFineWhine yesterday, who also writes about life with anxiety and shares tips for coping with your mental health. When Facebook reminded me today of the photos I shared a year ago, I knew exactly what I had to do.
Here at Big Bold and Bright, you’ll know that your mental health is something that I really care about. In fact, the driving force behind starting up this blog was to be able to help you with your mental health, without all of those pesky waiting lists or subscription charges that get in the way sometimes. It wasn’t until I started writing about other things that I realised I had a good thing going on!
Today, I wanted to share with you the wonders of Badocks Wood. It’s long been my favourite green space and my favourite place to go for a spot of forest bathing. This walkthrough includes a narration with some pictures to help you on the journey. Shoes and socks on, are you ready?
I want you to imagine a road, a real road, but I want you to imagine it for now. It’s a busy U-shaped road, a small hill down, and a small hill back up. There are houses, a school and a community centre on one end, and on the other is a pub and a fish and chip shop. It hardly seems like the place for relaxation, does it?
Now I want you to imagine a gate between the houses and the school. Maybe you’d drive or walk past it a few times. You know it’s a park, but it’s unassuming and there are kids and dog walkers heading into or leaving. No big deal, it’s just a park, right?
Now let’s go through the gate.
As you enter the gate, a mosaic on the ground welcomes you. As you stop to read it, you notice what it says, Welcome to Badocks Wood.
Silver birches run along the sides of the path and three more circular mosaics line your way. To your right, you can hear young children playing in the school playground and to your left, teenagers playing football in the sports area. As you walk further, you come to a juncture, with three paths, two benches and more trees. In the centre is another mosaic, depicting the story of the park you’re now stood in.
The woodlands captivates you and you bear right. Above you, petals fall from the cherry trees and leaves blow gently in the breeze. You walk along, almost skipping, stopping occasionally to step over the tree roots. Through the trees you can see people walking their dogs, and just occsionally, you meet someone else who is walking in the shade. They acknowledge you, and you acknowledge them. The woods is a truly magical, happy place to be.
Through the trees, you see something. It looks like a silver spindle and it catches your interest. What is it? A monument? A statue? A water fountain?
At the bottom of the monument, you can see a spiral-shaped inscription. Tentatively, you follow the words to understand it’s meaning. As you follow the curve, you come to understand the mound behind it and the momument it represents. This is not just a mound of earth, this is a bronze-age burial ground!
You head along the path and back through the woods, more silver birches, horse chestnut and more cherry trees. Above, you can hear the squirrels rustling through the branches. Just occasionally, you even see one skip between the trees.
You come to another juncture, this time with five possible routes. One continues along a dark and seemingly rarely trodden path, and another leads further into the woods. One takes you back to the burial mound, or back the way you came, and one leads you into the playing field. In the warmth of the sun, you take a moment to pause and think about your decision. Where do you want to go?
You see a dog walker take the middle route and you decide to follow their lead. It takes you further into the woods, but not the way you came. Behind you, you notice other people following you, but seemingly not interesting in you. What is down here, and why is everyone headed this way?
The path leads down a a winding slope with trees on either side. Your heart begins to pump harder now with anticipation and anxiety. What is down here? Why is everyone interested in it? Where does it lead?
Finally, it all becomes clear and you approach the stream. You notice the bamboo arch and the small waterfall behind the trees. The sound of the water and the birdsong relaxes you and you feel your stress and anxiety wash away. You decide to pause for a while and as you find a tree stump to sit on and relax by the water, you finally come to understand the true meaning behind those words;
Welcome to Badocks Wood.