BACK TO NA­TURE

SUR­ROUNDED BY TREES AND BIRD SONG, EMILY SHEL­LEY AND HER FAM­ILY UN­WIND IN SNOWDONIA

Stockport Express - - Travel -

IF sun­bathing is for sum­mer hol­i­days, surely the only thing to do on an au­tumn hol­i­day is for­est-bathe? Lie back on a soft bed of moss, breathe in the sub­tle scents of the trees around you and feel the gen­tle weight of leaves fall­ing from sway­ing branches above.

Bet­ter still, if you’d rather not lie on damp ground and get woodlice in your hair, you can ex­pe­ri­ence the for­est from the warm em­brace of your own pri­vate hot tub.

Per­su­ing a pas­time said to help with de­pres­sion, anx­i­ety and to re­set your body clock, we’re for­est-bathing from the ve­randa of a five-star cabin, get­ting all the mood-boost­ing ben­e­fits without the wet clothes.

We’re in Snowdonia in North Wales, in Bed­dgel­ert For­est. It’s un­be­liev­ably tran­quil, but there are a few sounds to be heard above the hot-tub bub­bles.

We can hear the trills and chirps of birds, the wind in the branches of the pines around us, and twice a day, the ‘toot toot’ of the Welsh High­land Rail­way steam en­gine that stops here.

And that’s it. The trees are al­ready work­ing their magic on my fam­ily, who are re­dis­cov­er­ing each other af­ter sev­eral hec­tic weeks.

This small and ex­clu­sive cabin com­plex is new to the Na­tional Park and run by For­est Hol­i­days.

Some old farm build­ings on site house a shop, where you can pick up take­away cof­fees and fresh warm pas­tries in the morn­ing, and a bake­house which de­liv­ers hot piz­zas and cur­ries to your oak-pan­elled door in the evening. You can even or­der them through your cabin TV. But the fo­cus is very much about ex­plor­ing the nat­u­ral won­ders around you. The For­est Ranger Base­camp of­fers a se­ries of guided ex­pe­di­tions, from late-night walks with night-vi­sion gog­gles to spy on the noc­tur­nal an­i­mals that live here to sur­vival skills and fam­ily bug hunts.

In the shop as we pick up our crois­sants on the first morn­ing, we hear staff tell one young fam­ily the best places in the for­est to play Pooh­sticks. The em­pha­sis is on nat­u­ral fun – no wa­ter slides or games rooms here.

Mine are a bit too old for Pooh­sticks, so we’ve ar­ranged to hire moun­tain bikes from the vil­lage.

Bed­dgel­ert it­self is a 1.5km walk along one of the for­est trails. It’s dubbed a ‘rain­for­est’ be­cause of the amount of rain­fall here, so bring wet-weather gear and sturdy footwear.

It’s a pretty Welsh slate vil­lage with a large hump­backed bridge over the river Col­wyn. We fin­ish our walk with an ice cream on ar­rival at the lo­cal leg­end that is the Glaslyn Ices ice cream par­lour and me­an­der round the shops.

At Bed­dgel­ert Bikes, we’re fur­nished with trail maps, locks, hel­mets and a re­al­is­tic as­sess­ment of how far you’re likely to get and how long it will take you. We’re keep­ing the bikes for a cou­ple of days, so we pick up as many sug­ges­tions as we can that are suit­able for slightly un­fit novice rid­ers.

The Bed­wen trail takes us to the ‘hid­den’ lake of Llyn Lly­we­lyn and a per­fect pic­nic spot. There are views of Snow­den from var­i­ous points on the route and the paths are mul­tiuse, mostly smooth and wide. There’s a large climb up – the for­est backs onto the moun­tain of Moel He­bog – but we’re re­warded with a free­wheel home.

Stretch­ing tired limbs by the log-burn­ing stove in­side the cabin later that evening, we ig­nore the large stock of movies on TV and opt for Scrab­ble and hot choco­late in­stead, ac­com­pa­nied by marsh­mal­lows on the gas bar­be­cue out­side.

If you don’t fancy get­ting sad­dle sore, there are enough walks to keep you busy, and at­trac­tions on your doorstep range from Caernar­fon Cas­tle to the un­der­ground cav­erns of Blae­nau Ffes­tin­iog and the beaches around Porth­madog.

We’re too zenned out from all that for­est time to ven­ture much fur­ther than the vil­lage. Tear­ing our­selves away for an af­ter­noon, we visit the Sy­gun Cop­per Mine that helped sus­tain this com­mu­nity for gen­er­a­tions, and walk a Na­tional Trust trail through the Aber­glaslyn Gorge via Gel­ert’s Grave.

Do we learn much for­est lore? No. Would we ever sur­vive a night in the woods or nav­i­gate our way without way­marked trails? Not a chance.

But a bit of com­fort doesn’t lessen our ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the na­ture around us, and only height­ens its ef­fect on our well­be­ing. Who needs sun?

The For­est Hol­i­days cab­ins at Bed­dgel­ert are in a beau­ti­ful lo­ca­tion The lounge in a Golden Oak cabin at For­est Hol­i­days Bed­dgel­ert Bed­dgel­ert vil­lage

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