Bushland Bathing
Edwina Laginestra

Forget big picture views, immerse yourself within your local flora and fauna

Sydneysiders love an expansive view, flocking to lookouts, viewing platforms and climbing towers. Some even remove trees to enjoy a wide view. But in Japan they celebrate Forest Bathing – being immersed in nature so other senses are engaged: hear the birds or insects; smell the flowers; see the colours of the flora, feel the breeze. Rather than looking outwards, bathers take nature in – spending time to take in details and, meditatively take these sounds and sights into mind and soul. Research indicates just spending 20 minutes in a forest reduces stress and improves connection to the natural world.

Forests and plantings are not only good for our mental health, but improve the health of the planet and urban wildlife (who are safer in green corridors). In urban areas we may not have room for forests but we can provide green walkways and pocket forests. These smaller areas still allow us to meander, and increase biodiversity. Plantings restore unproductive space and create shared values of the environment.

But mini-forests and green corridors are not formulaic – they must involve the local community to use endemic species and create a space locals value. The community must provide input – perhaps using the following criteria:

• The end cannot be seen from the start of the walk; twists and turns slow the pace
• A variety of plants from lichen/fungi, moss to vines, bamboo or tall trees based on consideration of habitat and protection for other species
• Nearby buildings/structures can be used (eg. rooftop gardens)

Subscribe for updates on the Public Space Ideas Competition