The Forest experience: a sanctuary of well-being in France
The forest ranks second among the favourite natural spaces for the French public to spend their leisure time, just behind the countryside. A place of well-being and walking, the forest is a natural asset and visitors seeking to get off the beaten track can contribute to the local economy.
Every year, 700 million people visit forests in France, that means 22 people every second enter these managed natural environments. These figures bear witness to the importance of forests as a lever for regional tourism development, throughout France. In a society that has become very urban, the forest stands out as an ideal space for relaxation in nature and a pure oxygen fix.
The Forest of Compiègne: experiencing nature
Located 80 kilometres north of Paris, the forest of Compiègne offers an exceptional natural environment to the Compiégnois, with numerous hiking trails and cycling paths with reception areas. Covering an area of 14,500 hectares, it constitutes an important reservoir of biodiversity, within the network of Picardy forests (Laigue, Ourscamp, Retz and Halatte).
It is made up of large forests of beech and oak linked to its cultural heritage steeped in history. Protected throughout history by the kings of France, it has within it a frame of old oaks that are up to 450 years old and have been managed by more than twenty generations of foresters. It is not surprising, therefore, there is an emotional response and connection with France’s heritage. One can look upwards from the forest floor to contemplate the summit of these venerable witnesses of the past or from touching their rough multi-centenary trunk.
Led by the French project team at EXPERIENCE, the Compiègne forest has seen the development of many activities geared towards the awakening of the senses: sensory trails and musical forest baths. Alongside training and awareness-raising workshops and plantations for children and schoolchildren, horseback riding and immersive theatre shows, a visit to the forest can create unique memories.
As Marjorie Levasseur, Project Manager, Environment and Public Engagement at ONF explains:
“Whatever the interests and aspirations of its visitors, the forest is an exciting experience to live, and to bring to life!”
The virtue of forest bathing
Inspired by Japanese culture, sylvotherapy or “forest bathing” is gaining ground in France, receiving increased attention from local public stakeholders. It is based on scientific studies that demonstrate the many virtues of walks in the forest: lowering blood pressure, heart rates and stress levels and strengthening the immune system. The objective is to let go, to focus and to experience an intense moment with the nature that surrounds us.