Running in the woods at Burnham Beeches

Just lately I’ve got a bit bored with running the same local routes, much as I love them. Today I decided to go a little further afield and run in the woods at Burnham Beeches in Buckinghamshire. Last year I ran a half marathon here which you can read about in this post. It was one of the loveliest runs of 2019.

Glowing beech leaves – I promise this photo is not edited in any way!

It’s a different time of year now but running in the woods is special in all seasons. The weather was perfect for running today, with blue skies and almost no wind. Although beech trees are very dominant there are in fact many species, including oaks and ash, and silver birch, as well as evergreens such as holly and firs.

The hollowed out trunk of an ancient pollarded tree

The woods are a site of special scientific interest (SSSI) due to the range of habitats and numbers of different species, both animal and plant. One of the more noticeable habitats is the pollarded trees, mainly beech and oak. Pollarding took place every 10-15 years until the beginning of the 20th century; the branches were cut back at head height for firewood (and possibly furniture making?) which allowed trees to live longer than they would otherwise, and animals could not reach the new shoots. Some of the trees are now hundreds of years old. Many of them are hollow and semi rotten, and it is this habitat that supports a range of wild life, including fungi, mosses and invertebrates.

It was good to run on the soft surfaces of the woodland – fallen leaves and leaf mould, mud and grass. At this time of year when it’s dark in the mornings and evenings I end up running on the unforgiving pavements locally. I have already noticed the effect that impact is having on my feet, even in my most cushioned shoes. So today was a treat, to be running in the sunshine, in amongst the beautiful trees, and on a squishy soft surface. Even if I did almost twist my ankle on a tree root hidden under the leaves.

But it’s not just all the above that makes running in the woods a fab thing to do. Many studies have shown that being outside in green spaces, and especially among trees is good for mental as well as physical health. And of course you don’t have to run, walking in the woods works too! This is an interesting article with lots of links to research on the health benefits of being outside in nature.

I didn’t do a very long run today – just 8km (5 miles), although it took me a while as I kept stopping to take photos and just ‘be’ in the woods. And I came home feeling great!

This week I’m going to make a massive effort to get into a green space every single day during daylight!

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