January has been a stressful month for me, and even my regular meditation practice could not prevent me from developing some skin allergy as a result of stress. I feel that many city dwellers often struggle to maintain a work/play/rest balance, and despite the best effort, stress seems to affect many of us from time to time.
Over the years, I found that nature is the best antidote to stress. No matter how anxious, unhappy or stressful I feel, simply immersing myself in nature would somehow transform my negative state/mindset into a positive one. Sometimes it feels like magic.
Yet sunny days in winters are hard to come by, and when it’s cold, grey, wet and miserable outside, I would rather stay in and turn into a couch potato. But then one day I received an email notification from one of my walking groups going for a 9-mile walk through Windsor Great Park the next day (which was forecast to be sunny), I signed up for it immediately.
On the day I learned that quite a few people on the walk had signed up at the last minute as well. Perhaps the REAL attraction of this walk was the sun rather than the park itself. I think we all made the right decision because despite the cold, it was a beautiful day.
This Grade I listed historical park covers over 4,800 acres of land, and it contains an 18th century man-made Virginia Water lake, as well as a cascade. Walking along the lakeside was pleasant and calming on a sunny day. Meanwhile, I couldn’t stop noticing and admiring the colossal and ancient trees all around me. They are magnificent.
After treading through some muddy part, we reached one of the highlights of the walk – the Snow hill. On the top of the hill stands The Copper Horse, a statue of George III on horseback, which looked particularly monumental against the blue sky. Here, we enjoyed a spectacular panoramic view of the area, including the 2.64-mile long tree-lined Long Walk with Windsor Castle at the far end, and high-rise in London on the right.
It turned out that The Long Walk is really a ‘long walk’! We were all exhausted by the time we reached the gate of Windsor Castle. Designed by Charles II, 1,652 elm trees were planted to create this landscape inspired by his previous stay at the Versailles. Over the years Elms have been replaced by Oak, Horse Chestnut and London Plane trees. Later in 1710, Queen Anne requested a road to be constructed down the centre of the tree lined avenue for coaches. And it is still used by the royal carriages annually as part of the route from Windsor Castle to the Ascot Races.
After spending the beautiful day walking in nature, all the stress and anxiety that I was experiencing the day before simply faded away. I felt extremely content and calm on my way back to London. Can nature combat stress? The answer is definitely ‘yes’.
Interestingly, I came across an article from the New York Times on how nature can change our brains and our mental health, which explains what I experience walking in nature is proven to be true and effective.