A Walk in the Woods: a personal journal entry

About the author - Diarmid Baillie joined the New Caledonian Woodlands team in 2014 as a ‘Good Wood’ project officer and ‘Grow Your Mind’ environmental coach. With a background in Counselling Psychology and Experiential Psychotherapy, Diarmid has run his own Psychotherapy practice for a number of years, before deciding that he wanted to take mental health therapy outdoors and link it with woodlands and greenspace.

Woodlands and wild places have always been somewhere I have gone to reconnect with what’s most important, soothe myself and shake off the dross.  Today I’m feeling a bit harassed, tense, stressed.  Something is bugging me. I know it’s my own mind but I can’t quite find the space to hear it .Rather than trying to figure it out, I need to decompress, find space to let the tangle unwind itself, get the bigger perspective.  It’s not really something I can do. Being in the woods can do it for me.

A list of things to get done floats at the back of my mind as I pace down the pavement heading for the woods.  It’s early December in Edinburgh, a silver ceiling of cloud glides over the city west to east.  I know that the woods clears my head, shifts my feelings, reminds me of what matters to me, gets me back to the roots.

My route takes me down the old railway cycle path, its embankments steepening and deepening until it tunnels under Queensferry Road.  Wooden stairs lift me up to the pavement again for a last blast of noise and smell of traffic before finally arriving at the gates of Ravelston Woods, a green urban sanctuary.   As I enter the stone gateway and climb the track I suddenly feel bigger, my senses opening into the canopy of mature trees above.  I feel relieved and soothed as the traffic noise dwindles. My ears fill with roar of wind in treetops. Sometimes when I’m right in the centre at the top of these woods, with the Scots Pines, it’s easy to feel as if I’m far out of town, especially in the summer when the leaves are full and buzzards are hunting.  Today the trees are naked.

The whole woodland now feels totally different from my last visit a couple of weeks ago when it was still full of autumn colour.  I can see the sky and the city and feel the wind.  The whole woodland has breathed out, let go and is sliding into sleep, its leaves returning to mush and mold, inviting me to let go, rest and trust.  I savour the stark, open, fresh feeling in the air all around me, the soggy texture underfoot, the floor of yellow and copper patterns pleasing my eyes, the wind singing in the branches, touching my face.

My body feels calmer, more solid.  The ‘things to do’ are still there in the back of my head but have detached like autumn leaves,  something created for a while to help me to live, something to let go of when work is done and it’s time for rest.