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Local tree seeks friend for hugs

Five nature spots near major UK cities, for easy treehugging day trips

Everyone knows nature is good for them, but direct contact with trees has been shown to confer benefits to your physical and mental health that easily offset the faint embarrassment of standing with your arms wrapped round a trunk. An increase in oxytocin and dopamine levels makes you feel happier, calmer and more connected to the natural world. While you might have a good local park or favourite tree nearby, it always helps to use a tree hugging trip as an excuse to get out of town and immerse yourself in the countryside. Here are a few suggestions on scenic spots around an hour from major cities in the UK, for quick day trips to your nature fix.

London to Virginia Water

Virginia Water, part of Windsor Great Park, is a man-made lake whose first iteration dates back to the mid 18th century. The 4.5 mile loop around the lake is a beautiful, gentle stroll or cycle on mostly paved path, with a good café stop at either end and plenty of trees to get acquainted with as you wander. There are longer walks all through the park, on which you’ll pass by a giant totem pole, some Roman ruins and the impressive Cumberland Lodge. Trains run into Egham or, oddly enough, Virginia Water station, which will leave you a 1.5 mile walk to the eastern edge of the lake.

Manchester to Delamere

With the Peak District on your doorstep to the east of Manchester, it’s strange to suggest going west, but Delamere Forest offers an easily accessible day in nature. There are miles of walking and running trails through the trees, as well as the climb up Old Pale, from the trig point of which you can see twelve counties (or none, as we once discovered on a rainy day). Trains from Manchester take about an hour and a quarter and drop you half a mile from the western edge of the forest. If you’re cycling, then National Route 70 passes nearby and the forest is only 12.5 miles from Chester.

Edinburgh to the River Almond

Only half an hour from the city centre you find this beautiful footpath that runs past waterfalls and over old stone bridges, following the course of the River Almond for around four miles. The woods are carpeted in bluebells in spring and the walk ends at the sea, with views north across the Firth of Forth to take in before you turn back. Currently the 40/40A Stagecoach bus towards Fife drops you right by the river, then all you need to do is follow the water. It’s perfect for a little day of nature and there’s a good variety of huggable trees.

Birmingham to Waseley Hills

Given its proximity to the city, it’s incredible how much this country park feels like a real slice of countryside despite the skyscraper skyline in the background. It’s a sweep of undulating valleys and hills, with pockets of woodland dotted around for all your treehugging needs. There’s a great café and the whole park is dog friendly, so everyone can get a run around. The easiest way to get there from the city centre is to go from Moor St to Crompton Road on the 63, with a quarter of an hour walk at the end to get you to the park proper.

Cardiff - Castell Coch

A stunning castle, the result of the Marquess of Bute handing free rein and a lot of money over to architect William Burges, is the start point for four trails through Fforest Fawr, just north of Cardiff. There are panoramic valley views, historic mines and sculptures to discover, but, more importantly, lovely woodland for getting your hug on and enjoying some tree time. The forest is on the Taff Trail if you’re up for making a cycling day of it, but you can also get there by train to Taffs Well or the 26 bus from Cardiff to Tongwynlais, which will take around 45 minutes, depending on traffic.

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