Playing Heidi in the Entlebucher Voralpen

The juicy rolling hills and jagged little summits of the Entlebucher Voralpen in Central Switzerland are part of a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve where natural beauty abounds. Like studs across the landscape, cosy farmhouses dwell - some of them available to rent as holiday accommodation. 

I immediately think of Heidi: the 18th-century chalet we have booked sits in a steep meadow on Glaubenberg, where it is flanked by bright wildflowers and woodland. Facing it, the jagged teeth of the Entlebucher Voralpen rise and fall like dragons teeth. Our drive here brought us through juicily bulging green hillocks studded with shingled farmhouses. Dramatic weather, with storms sweeping up the valley, painted the sky inky blue then steel grey, and gilded the landscape with ghostly golden sunbursts. 

Known as the "wild west" of the Canton of Lucerne, the area is a UNESCO Biosphere. and in the bucolic scenery of hills, summits and moorland, colonies of animals and plants dwell. Our chalet is close to Entlebuch, a pretty town scattered with butchers and dairies that sits between the Kleine Emme and Grosse Entlen rivers. 

Our first day dawns wet, but a walk along the Eremitenweg between Gfellen and Alp Brüderer enchants with sights including a parade of cows on their climb to the Alpine pastures; the dusty Älleggbach waterfall; and the canton's oldest chapel dating from 1725. We're in the shadow of the gnarly Schimbrig and Schwändlifluh peaks and sheltered by wildly tangled woodland. In the afternoon, there's a break in the weather, and we promenade along the leafy riverbanks in Entlebuch. The chalet is a cosy spot to return to as rain once again sweeps in, and a panoramic one when a sunny evening allows us to dine outside. At night, all is still, and we fall asleep as perfect darkness descends. 

I start the following day with an invigorating round of sun salutations on the terrace, drinking in the clear air. Then a stroll along the 'Energieweg' in nearby Finsterwald, which winds through panoramic woodland and across broad meadows, and takes in wind turbines and the site of gas drilling in the 1980s and 90s, gives us a nice leg stretch before our journey home. Always in view, colourful meadows where dandelions frolic around tumbledown farmhouses, and powerful little mountains basking in sunlight.


Forest bathing at Wildnispark Zurich - Sihlwald

Wildnispark Zurich is close to the city yet offers visitors forest bathing in the frothy depths of magnificent woodland. 

Green... Leafy lashings of it. Bright sunlight dapples trees in shades of pea, forest and mint and splashes through onto the woodland floor. It is a chaotic tapestry designed by nature's hand - and here, left to roam free. The trees are not felled, but left to grow tall and proud, acting as homes to singing birdlife and buzzing insects.

This is the Wildnispark Zurich in Sihlwald, where it flanks the glittering, gushing River Sihl and the railway towards southern Switzerland. On this capricious April Sunday, there is nowhere better to be than the woods. From the smart visitor centre, a path winds steeply up into dense woodland, a riot of silver birch, sycamore, larch and copper beech. Trees that have fallen naturally tangle among living counterparts.

Along the route (the 2km "Erlebnispfad") there are activity stations to encourage visitors to engage with the forest. Among them is a humming stone and a long jump, but my favourite is the barefoot path. I eagerly slip off my shoes and do several circuits over the bark, pine cones and pebbles. It's a cooling massage, and boosts circulation to my feet so much that afterwards I feel like I am walking on air. I'm on a natural high too - this is surely the Japanese art of forest bathing at its finest.

Simply being in the woodland is enough, though. Baby Albie gazes up with wide eyes at the sun-dappled canopy, but we adults are in awe too. The stillness and natural beauty are a world away yet not far from Zurich.

Close to the visitor centre again, we picnic in a vast barn set with picnic benches and watch as the weather travels past as quickly as the current in the river. Sunshine, sleet and rain dancing over the twinkling woodland.

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