This article first appeared in our Women: time for action issue of My Green Pod Magazine, distributed with The Guardian on 02 July 2021. Click here to subscribe to our digital edition and get each issue delivered straight to your inbox
An unexpected side-effect of the pandemic has been our reconnection with nature.
The healing, regenerative power and beauty of our natural environment is finally being recognised, and on-trend travellers are beginning to put nature at the centre of their holiday plans.
So why go on nature-based holidays? ‘Just try it and you will always keep coming back to it – nature never lets you down’, says Kelly Hollick of Broughton Sanctuary, a pioneer of nature-based getaways.
At this natural sanctuary there’s a lot of talk about the benefits of responsible holidaying. The focus is on experiential but meaningful breaks that involve new ways of learning in stunning locations, with a view to inspiring kinder ways of living.
Guests can leave a positive impact on the environment and even support conservation or rewilding efforts during their stay.
‘Clients are looking for ways to minimise their carbon footprint; they’re travelling with climate in mind, planning wisely and choosing consciously’, Kelly tells us. ‘It is not about leaving no footprint, but about adding authentic and holistic value to the places we visit – all while taking a break that’s beneficial to mind, body and soul.’
Nature tourism allows mental wellbeing to flourish; it can be the catalyst that reconnects you to your true and ‘primal’ self – the thing that makes you ‘you’ and that might have fallen silent over the years.
By wiring into nature and pulling the plug on emails, social media and instant messages, you start to become aware of your own thoughts and feel your sense of beingness.
There are opportunities to rediscover simple, affordable and cross-generational pleasures – from picnics, birdwatching and stargazing to camping and hiking – and to experience the freedom and restorative benefits of being immersed in nature.
Guests return home feeling full of health, vitality and inspiration – and often with a new motivation to protect our natural world.
The Broughton Sanctuary offers all this and much more. The holiday homes, set on the border of a national park in the foothills of the beautiful Yorkshire Dales, are in the heart of England’s largest tree-planting project and overlook the site of a leading nature recovery programme.
There is a framework of activities for nature-based wellbeing breaks, ranging from wild swimming, foraging and forest therapy to sweat lodges, a woodland sauna and moonbathing high on the heather moorland.
For the active there are countless hiking trails and over 26 miles of internal paths for cyclists, plus opportunities to get involved with tree planting and litter picking.
‘That feeling that you can contribute to the countryside and that you are leaving somewhere better than you found it is incredibly satisfying for the soul, and creates a sense of purpose and self-worth’, says Roger Tempest, Broughton’s custodian.
230,000 trees were planted here last year and in 2021, more natural habitats are being encouraged and cared for. Visitors of all ages can derive the same pleasures from these havens for nature. There’s an abundance of delicious wild food to enjoy – whether you’re snacking on wild raspberries during a walk in the woods or collecting wild garlic for a homemade pesto.
‘Nature’s healing and restorative powers have been left off the agenda for too long from a holistic wellbeing point of view’, says Paris Ackrill, co-founder of Avalon Wellbeing at the Sanctuary. ‘Avalon has been set up to help human inner nature and, consequently, to help our outer nature.’
For those looking for a low-carbon summer staycation that’s affordable and family friendly, Broughton should be high on the list.
The Sanctuary organises a range of retreats and the team can curate a bespoke break to ensure you get everything you want out of your stay.
With a bit of planning you can arrange to spend a night in a shepherd’s hut or pass an evening sharing stories by firelight at the fire temple. By day you can rewild your spirit by birdwatching in wetlands or striding through the wild beauty of Brontë-esque moorlands.
As great holidaymaker Fred Pontin used to say: ‘Book early to avoid disappointment.’