But life wasn’t always like that. For nearly a decade, Lizzie and Merlin lived in London, where he worked as a management consultant and she held a senior marketing position. They would come to Merlin’s family farm as a respite from the grind of the city. “Every time we got off the train, it would be like a physical release of tension,” Lizzie said. “I literally had to go down to Cornwall to sleep.”
Then, in 2018, Lizzie suffered a belated miscarriage, her first of two lost pregnancies, and came to Cabilla — specifically her forest — to recuperate. She and Merlin took daily walks through the trees where the restorative power of “forest bathing” soon became apparent.
“Something really amazing happens when you slow down your whole life and start looking at little things in nature,” Lizzie said. “You start to observe things in a really different way. And you start to appreciate things like beauty, and tiny bits of moss growing on a tree, and seeing campion [a pink wildflower] appear when he was not there a week before. It healed us in so many ways.”
The trees also helped Merlin. He suffered from PTSD after serving three tours in Afghanistan in a frontline combat role. “I remember going through training and being told it could take up to 10 years for the symptoms of PTSD to start showing. And I remember, as a stupid young man at at the time, for thinking, ‘This is ridiculous,'” he said. said. “My first Afghanistan tour was in 2007. I had depression in 2017, almost 10 years to the day.” Walks in the woods proved crucial to his recovery.
After their experiences, Merlin and Lizzie knew they could no longer keep Cabilla private. They wanted to share its potential wellness benefits with others. As well as opening it up to paying customers, they have yet to turn down a member of the public’s request for a walk in the woods, although they are keen to limit the number of people to protect the vulnerable habitat . Merlin has also just set up a partnership with the US military, which will use Cabilla for pensions for veterans suffering from PTSD or moral injury. And Lizzie, who also suffered from postpartum anxiety and insomnia after the birth of her daughter, reflects on how to make Cabilla accessible to women dealing with miscarriage or birth trauma.