The Japanese practice of shinrin yoku, or forest bathing, has many followers who are convinced by the soothing properties of trees, which release molecules that help to slow down our heart rate, for example. For a straightforward programme of walking, breathing and relaxing, head for the best natural spots that we’ve found for you in Orne.
TOP 3 PLACES TO WALK AND ENJOY THE SILENCE
Oëtre Rock and the Granite trail: the Rock of Oëtre is famous for its contours that resemble a human profile. A number of waymarked trails visit this craggy mountain sculpted by time. The Granite trail invites you to look down at the Gouvre gorge as you follow the river’s course, then let your imagination spot the oddest of shapes on your way to the lookout point. A creative communion with the elements.
Grand Hazé Marsh walk: surrounded by wooded countryside, this is Orne’s largest marsh area. The 200 hectares of ponds, peat bogs and reed beds command silence for mindful visitors keen to admire the birds that nest here. Nearly 170 species have been spotted, some of them rare. A 4km footpath takes you through this wilderness where you may also see the Camargue horses and Scottish cattle that take care of the habitat’s upkeep.
Ecouves forest walk: north of Alençon, this forest is a delight for walkers who love the great outdoors. The 13km Croix Madame trail offers a great opportunity to spend some energy and empty your mind. Along the way, you may be tempted by a #treehug in this forest stretching as far as the eye can see, or a selfie taken against the perfect backdrop of an amazing sculpted sequoia!
THE FOREST, A LAND OF EXPERIENCES
The Andaines forest
Around Bagnoles-de-l’Orne, the legendary Andaines forest has sparked many a tale. A number of activities are available here for anyone looking to get closer to nature. Go mushroom picking in the company of a true connoisseur and expert mycologist, to fill your basket without taking any risks. In spring, head for the Michelin-starred Manoir du Lys restaurant, where you can enjoy a picnic fit for a king in the middle of the forest and savour the cuisine of a Michelin-starred chef in the shade of elegant foliage and to the sound of birdsong. Or if you’re feeling adventurous, you may opt for a guided hike during which you’ll learn to use a compass and spend the night in a hammock, gazing up at the stars and listening for the forest’s nocturnal sounds. Up for a challenge?
LETTING GO WITH NICOLAS LAURAIN
What does sylvotherapy entail?
I propose forest walks in small groups to ensure that all participants succeed in connecting with the forest world and feel a sense of otherness among all its living beings, be they animals, trees or insects. The aim really is to connect with the trees in order to benefit from the healthgiving properties of their secretions, their shapes, and so on. The forest’s geometry is similar to that of the planet’s origins. Differing from that created by humans, in cities for example, it communicates with our DNA.
“Looking up at a tree is the same humbling experience as standing in front of a cathedral”
The people who join me for this experience are always a little stressed about walking into the forest but, fairly quickly, they manage to relax and let go. They are surprised to be so deeply moved by such simple experiences, and end up with renewed enthusiasm for life, less facial tension, and newfound energy…
I recommend forest bathing to anyone who feels anxious, hopelessly addicted to new technologies or incapable of enjoying the here and now. Sylvotherapy offers a chance to explore a calm environment in which vegetation is left untouched for 40, 60 or 80 years (which isn’t all that common), along with its living beings. I find the Bellême forest especially interesting for its elevation range and the varied terrain in certain parts.