IT’S steaming hot outside. We reached a maximum temperature of 29.9 °C in the early afternoon. I don’t mind this, personally. I recall my early days in the tropics and speculate whether putting up with hot weather can be an acquired condition, or whether the weather’s inherent.

Look, all this tolerance of heat will surely be more than valuable as the climate gets hotter, with longer droughts and higher ambivalent temperatures. Ambivalent – now there’s a good word.

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So in our household the only sufferers are the dogs. The ducks and geese have their own bathing arrangements, but the poor old pups just flake out on our cold natural stone scullery floor giving off an occasional heavy sigh. So I start the programme of the day first thing in the morning, when it’s cool. And in the woods where we go for this early schedule, we meet a different cast of species. Today it was roe deer and brown hares, both of which play a well-organised game of ‘catch me if you can’, fairly easily outrunning the dogs who soon give up a hopeless competition. Long tongues and panting all round.

Forestry Journal: Sometimes there's nothing better than a walk through the woods, like Gwydir Forest Park in WalesSometimes there's nothing better than a walk through the woods, like Gwydir Forest Park in Wales (Image: FJ/Jack Haugh)

But there are other advantages for woodland walkers. This month, the beech comes into soft green, feathery foliage, giving cool shade and providing a filter and pattern of light on the forest floor. This is arguably when the therapeutic benefits of summer morning woods truly come into their own. That special and unique ambience and atmosphere is at its height. You feel refreshed and revitalised. Heat hovers overhead, but the leaves shield the woodland walker and promise cool shelter as the day progresses and the temperature rises.

Working in the woods, being in this microclimate, brings benefits to us all. You feel better, function better and are more productive and creative, being surrounded by trees.

And there are better things to come, I read in my morning paper.

All my life I have been a tennis player, starting at school and then as a member of our rather swish local tennis club. I have had my runs of success, but my chief claim to fame is that in all my tennis career I never lost to Roger Federer, Raphael Nadal or indeed, closer to home, Scotland’s own Andy Murray. Nor did I lose to Novak Djokovic. Who I now discover owes his domination of the world of tennis to one important and unique factor. He prepares for big matches by – can you guess – walking in the woods! 

It appears he tunes up for yet another Grand Slam final by relaxing in the woods with his family. But this leaves me with a problem. I have spent my working life walking in the woods, but although this undoubtedly kept me fit and active, I can’t honestly say it noticeably improved my game. Or perhaps it did, and I never realised. And Novak must have found his training regime easier to follow in the French Open or even at Wimbledon, but seeking a walk in the woods around, say, Las Vegas or New York’s Country Club must have presented problems.

Forestry Journal: Cliff Richard is well known for his love of tennisCliff Richard is well known for his love of tennis (Image: Alan Olley)

And it’s a sad reflection that in all the woodland walking I have done over the years, I never bumped into Novak. I have met all manner of people ranging from members of the Royal family to Sir Cliff Richard, (another tennis player, by the way), but never saw the Serb. It all might have been easier to understand if walking in forest nurseries was the habit. We could then have a whole new diary based on seeding, couldn’t we?

What is needed now is an expert analysis of just what it is that gives woods their magic.

You are unlikely to get the same kick out of a walk in Eskdalemuir as you might experience down here in the Forest of Dean, or indeed on a walk in the Black Forest. Can Sitka awaken the poets in us? Or is it that old veteran trees stimulate a recognition of the different timescales we pathetic little humans accept as normal, and their annual awakening, coming into foliage, symbolises some feelings of an immortality that we don’t have? Let’s try...

An old tennis player called Horace,
Would walk between sets in a forest,
But to keep up the pace,
He pulled out an ace,
And hammered that other chap Boris.

It’s not Keats, but at least it’s topical.