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Woodland nourishment for body and mind

My childhood garden backed onto a Luton train line: every nine minutes an engine thundered past. Despite this, my parents tried to replicate their ‘ground to hand’ Bangladeshi upbringing in our tiny plot. There was an apple and a pear tree, plus my dad grew pumpkins, radishes, coriander, mint – even grapes to make cordial. He refused to pay for overpriced veg at the corner shop!

It meant us kids saw all the stages food went through to reach our plates. Dad’s garden is still his pride and joy, though nowadays it’s sliced into three: one third for veg, another for grandkids, the last one for chickens.

I got my first detention for climbing a tree when I was 11

My grandfather is a farmer, so every year we’d visit him in Bangladesh and spend the whole time running, climbing and picking veg. So shinning up there felt like the most natural thing in the world. Back in school in the UK, dangling legs gave me away, and the teacher was horrified. I was pretty horrified myself: I’m such a goody two-shoes, I hated being in trouble. I never climbed a tree in England again.

Bake Off winner Nadiya says being in nature helps put things into perspective (Photo: WTML)
Bake Off winner Nadiya says being in nature helps put things into perspective (Photo: WTML)

One year in Bangladesh, I planted a very special tree with my grandfather

He told me 100 years would pass before it first fruited, so it was a very solemn, symbolic moment for us. The tree must be tended through the years – it’s something you have to tell your kids about, so they can look after it for the next generation. That means their stories become entwined with the tree, and there’s that lovely sense of leaving a gift for someone you may never meet. Grandfather told me to guard it with my life!

I’m all about the natural supermarket

We lived in Leeds when my children were small, and we could just about fit runner beans into our modest garden because they grew upright. So we’d head out to our local woods at Gledhow Valley and pick gorgeous wild garlic. I made pesto with it to chuck into pasta for the children’s tea – and garlic bread, of course. Now we live in Milton Keynes which is more villagey than you’d think, surrounded by woods, and each summer we raid the brambles as a family. We reckon you haven’t done it right unless your juice-stained fingers look like you’ve murdered a blackberry!

As a teenager I was diagnosed with a panic disorder, but medication isn’t for me.

Being outdoors has been a huge help. After I had the children I was determined to get out every day. It makes you feel better about being alive. Ideally I like to run among giant trees that have stood for centuries, crunching through decaying leaves. Being in nature helps put things into perspective: it reminds me how vulnerable we humans are – and how lucky.

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The full version of this article appeared in the Spring 2018 edition of Broadleaf, our quarterly magazine exclusive to members. Its news, features and stunning pictures tell the inside story of how we, our volunteers and partners stand up for trees. To receive your regular copy and exciting welcome gift, become a member now