Nothing says spring more than its delightful and delicate scents - yet stopping to indulge our most underrated sense is often the last thing on our minds.
Given that studies have suggested a link between a compound in some floral scents and the suppression of stress responses in animals, perhaps it’s time to wake up and smell the flowers?
Fortunately for our lucky visitors, the magical New Forest is jam-packed with wonderful scents and smells to savour. And never more so than in spring.
One scent – and sight – that never fails to inspire awe are the bluebells.
These vast carpets of acid green and ultramarine blue only grow in Ancient Woodlands, or where those woodlands used to be, making the New Forest one of the world’s top spots to experience this annual feast for the senses.
Look carefully and you’ll see bluebells dotting the hedgerows and in the older copses. But, to experience their full power, visit Clayhill Heath near Lyndhurst, Broomy Inclosure near Exbury, Roydon Woods and Sandleheath near Fordingbridge, and Pondhead Inclosure near Lyndhurst.
Sometimes, the scent is so strong, you can literally follow your nose and, when you do, take a moment to just stand there, close your eyes, and breathe in their deep and unmistakeable fragrance.
Our second favourite scent to look out for is the one you’ll find on our gorse bushes - those prickly plants that dot the New Forest’s heathland. You’ll recognise their flaring egg-yolk colour but if you decide to give those blooms a sniff (check for bees first!) you’ll experience the extraordinary aroma of warm coconut.
The delicate scent of wild primroses – little pale yellow flowers sitting close to the ground in hedgerows – is distinctive and so is that of violets, which are often found nearby.
If you’re walking in the pine forest or an inclosure on a very warm day, you may also catch the sweet smell of pine resin, which oozes from little holes made in the bark by insects. It is also thought that one reason the Japanese practice of forest bathing is considered beneficial is partly because of the airborne chemicals trees give off, which help reduce feelings of stress.
For something completely different, step onto one of the New Forest’s 43 miles of beautiful beaches and breathe in the scent of salt, sea and sun – your grateful lungs will thank you!
And don’t forget that in addition to all these wild scents, there are even more in the man-made settings of our beautiful, formal gardens.
From March 19 the world-renowned Exbury Gardens re-open for spring, with the scent of many rare and beautiful flowering plants to enjoy, from daffodils, to rare camelias and azaleas.
You’ll also find a feast for the olfactory senses at Furzey Gardens, near Minstead, and at the gardens of Palace House, Beaulieu, especially the Wilderness Garden, which is packed with spring flowers.