A Borders charity is encouraging everyone to take a walk on the wild side - like they do in Japan.

For centuries the Japanese have benefitted from shinrin-yoku, loosely translated as forest bathing.

And many scientific studies have confirmed its many benefits, particularly as a preventative measure for mental health problems.

Further research has also shown that high quality green spaces boost people’s wellbeing and self-esteem.

While the Borders Forest Trust has been helping people enjoy the benefits of its woodlands for over a decade, the native woodland conservation charity believes there has never been a better time to connect, or reconnect, with nature.

And organisers will welcome anyone who would benefit from their weekly volunteer sessions and group visits with open arms.

Lisa Brydon, who is volunteer coordinator with the Borders Forest Trust, told us: “It’s never been a more important time for people to be in amongst the trees.

"The Japanese prescribe this very activity and call it shinrin-yoku.

"Research has shown that green spaces act as a natural stress reliever by offering a calming and restorative environment.

"A Mind report advocated ‘ecotherapy’ as a clinically valid treatment option for people using mental health services.

"Additionally and equally important, trees, woodlands and all the important habitats and species that live in these forests need to be protected and managed sustainably.

"Every patch of woodland no matter how small is a major contributor to our future success and key to how we tackle this climate emergency we find ourselves in.”

Borders Forest Trust, which works closely in partnership with forestry organisations, believes the key to conservation lies in working with volunteers.

Supporting the charity to do this work is Forest Development Programme funding from Scottish Forestry along with a number of charitable trusts.

The weekly volunteer sessions are held in forests across the central Borders and Peeblesshire.

Lisa added: “Activities include tree planting, management of existing woodland such as pruning and thinning, control of invasive species and path works.

"The group also assist other organisations such as Scottish Forestry and Land and Scottish Natural Heritage.

"A few trips have been to Glentress Forest assisting with maintenance of their wildlife pond and helping Scottish Natural Heritage manage Juniper bushes on a Special Site of Scientific Interest.

"The volunteers who come along are as varied as the woodlands we visit.

"Some are young, some older but everyone keen to be in the woodlands and help to do something productive and get something back in return. What volunteers get from this activity is different for everyone but important.”

Further details of all volunteering opportunities at Borders Forest Trust are available from the charity's website - www.bordersforesttrust.org - or by calling 01835 830750.

Michael, who travels from Edinburgh each week for the volunteer sessions, said: “I thoroughly enjoy my time volunteering with the team.

"Being out and about making a clear positive impact on conservation projects and areas provides a significant feel good factor.

"I would recommend the Borders Forest Trust to anyone wanting to volunteer.”

This story first appeared in the Border Telegraph.