16 January 2019
The first few weeks of January can be fairly miserable after the excitement of Christmas and New Year, with a lack of daylight and cold weather. However, ever since the winter solstice on December 21, our days are slowly getting longer, even though it doesn't feel like it just yet.
Lack of vitamin D
One of the main reasons that many people can feel glum in January and February is that their vitamin D levels stored up in that beautiful heatwave of 2018 are now diminishing.
It's so easy to not see daylight during the winter months, especially if you work in an office. Try getting outdoors at lunchtime for a brief flash of daylight on your skin and to breathe in some fresh air. This is not always easy for many people, depending on your job, but can make a huge difference to your wellbeing.
Although we can get vitamin D from foods, such as sardines, red meat and egg yolks (just to name a few), the easiest way for our bodies to process this essential vitamin is from sunlight.
Last year, we learned about a Japanese activity, called Shinrin-yoku, which translates as forest bathing. This is about soaking up the atmosphere and being at one with the trees around you, rather than simply walking through a forest.
In the 1980s, the Japanese Government carried out scientific research which discovered that two hours in a forest could result in lower blood pressure, lower stress levels, as well as improving memory and concentration.
You can read more tips about forest bathing on the Forestry Commission’s website, and we highly recommend giving it a whirl this month to really feel re-energised after Christmas excesses.
Winter walks around Greater Manchester
If you want to try a new woodland walk this January, or take in some forest bathing, take a look at our list below for some ideas. If you choose a nice bright sunny day and wrap up well, there's nothing like a crisp winter walk.
1. Boggart Hole Clough, Blackley
This large woodland in Blackley is steeped in history, as well as legends of being haunted by a boggart, a mischievous spirit. Just four miles from the city centre, this park stretches 190 acres and takes in steep ravines studded with ancient trees.
The country park is an important part of Manchester's history because local socialists used the open area for meetings in 1896, and despite the council trying to stop them, used to attract thousands of people. In addition to that, a women's suffrage demonstration attracted 15,000 people in 1906.
There is also a children's play area, multi-use games area, athletics track, tennis court, bowling green, boating lake, fishing area and a cafe.
2. Fletcher Moss Park, Didsbury
This beautiful park, bordering the River Mersey, is right next to Didsbury village, and just 20 minutes from the city centre on a bus or tram. If you fancy a longer walk, you can also walk along the River Mersey path.
The park itself comprises a boggy woodland walk through Stenner Woods with a boardwalk path, tennis courts, a steep-sided botanical rock garden, small formal gardens, a lovely cafe, as well the riverside paths.
There are plenty of different trees to look at including ash, silver birch, oak, crack willows, white willows, rowan trees, common alder and grey alder, as well as plenty of flowering cherries and some fruiting trees.
3. Etherow Country Park
With 240 acres of greenspace, this country park lies in the heart of the Etherow and Goyt Valley and has both stunning views and ancient woodland to enjoy.
Etherow Country Park is in the Stockport area, near to Marple, on the way to the Peak District. You can stroll around the lake, watch enthusiasts running toy boats on the boating lake or head further out for longer walks.
There are a number of longer walks around the country park and woods, as well as the Etherow Goyt Valley Way which runs 15 miles from Vernon Park in Stockport to Hadfield in the Peak District.
4. Rivington Pike, Bolton
Rivington Pike in Bolton is the summit of Winter Hill, and the ascent takes you through some fantastic woodland and garden areas. When reaching the top of the hill, 363m at its highest point, you can see right across Lancashire and Manchester, and it is said you can see as far as the Isle of Man on a clear day.
The route through Rivington Terraced Gardens take you through Japanese Garden and Lever Bridge, and there are plenty of wooded areas and wild moorland to enjoy on this brilliant walk.
5. Wythenshawe Park
Although this huge park is situated just off the junction of the M60 and M56, this is a fantastic open parkland, consisting of ornamental woodlands, open grassland and beautiful wildflower meadows.
The 240 acre park itself dates from the 13th century, and Wythenshawe Hall was built in 1540. A split oak tree in the woodland has been identified by our Heritage Trees project as being an ancient tree that needs preserving.
Share your January walks with us, by tagging @cityoftreesmcr in any social media posts.
by Carolyn Hughes