The coppice season had come to an end by the time the Covid-19 pandemic struck and the country was forced into lockdown. Volunteers worked hard all winter to fell trees to bring light to the woodland floor, as part of the management plan agreed with the Forestry Commission.
Public appreciation of the value of Birchanger Wood has increased during the lockdown. It is a place where people can take their daily exercise, so they can remain physically fit and find some headspace in a crisis that many are finding difficult.
The Forestry England compiled studies that show there is strong scientific evidence that visiting a woodland can improve mood and attention span, and even enhance psychological stress recovery. It says walking among trees reduces levels of cortisol, a hormone associated with stress, and claims a forest walk can boost the immune system through breathing in phytoncides, which trees emit to protect themselves from germs and insects.
With so many children off school for months, the woodland also offers plenty of opportunities for education as well as leisure. One of our Trustees, Jono Forgham, who previously worked as a school teacher at Summercroft School, has been publishing regular blogs with ideas on how children can explore nature, whether in the wood or in their back gardens.
While the lockdown is ongoing, we urge people to observe social distancing measures, while ensuring they keep to the paths and not trample on flowers. We also stress the importance of our visitor’s code, which includes keeping dogs under control and preferably on a lead, as well as respecting the flora and fauna.
Our visitor data shows that public useage of the wood is low during the early morning, so those who are in higher risk categories could consider taking a relaxing walk at sunrise to hear the dawn chorus without worrying so much about bumping into others.