Helen Bigham from Suntrap Forest Centre on why we should all be tree huggers
If, like me, you believe that time spent among trees is never time wasted, have you ever been in Epping Forest and hugged a tree?
According to author Matthew Silverstone in his book Blinded by Science, there’s evidence that trees provide numerous mental health benefits – hugging a tree can increase levels of the hormone oxytocin. If a child should become lost in the forest, staying close to a tree offers some protection and keeps them in one place to be found more easily.
A fun way to encourage children to connect with nature is to lead them on a blindfolded sensory encounter and get them to guess which tree they’ve met. After all, Epping Forest is home to 55,000 ancient trees, more than any other single site in the country – so plenty to choose from! Or why not visit the cork tree in Chingford, one of the ten finalists for Woodland Trust Tree of the Year 2019.
Architect Claire Latane is writing a book on designing schools for good mental health and is focusing on urban schools, where children and young people may have limited contact with nature. She’s looking for case studies for schools which have developed their grounds in innovative ways to address mental health issues and those who might be working with their local authority to use local green spaces during or after school hours.
Suntrap Forest Centre is keen to support Claire’s research as, while our venue in High Beach is closed for major refurbishment, we’re working with local schools to provide free and discounted outdoor learning sessions.
Currently on offer for schools is the opportunity to apply for £500-worth of free outdoor learning resources from the charity Learning through Landscapes Local School Nature Grants Programme, supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery. Applications are open from now up until Friday 22nd November and equipment includes bird boxes and bee hotels.
If you’re interested in finding out more about the changes happening at Suntrap Forest Centre, visit One Hoe Street in Walthamstow on Saturday 19th October, 11am–3pm. On display will be the plans for the new environmentally sustainable site; an art exhibition of works inspired by the historic building and its natural surrounds by Walthamstow artist Emma Bond; free art activities; plus a chance to meet the Suntrap animals.
For more information about Suntrap Forest Centre: