In many ways woods are like people. All of them are made up of essentially the same stuff, yet each one is unique. Some are bright, cheery, welcoming. Others are shy and wistful. Some are dark and brooding and bring a sense of danger with them! And, like people, I find that the better a get to know a wood the more surprises and joys it brings.
After I had sat in the sun watching the lambs for a while (see last post) I scrambled over a ditch and entered the fringes of a wood I had not been into before. Unlike most of the woods here, which are filled largely with broad-leaved trees like Beech and Oak, this one was made up mostly of Pines. As a general rule, I’m not so keen on these. They tend to be the darker, more brooding type. Fewer birds enjoy them and there is often a sense of lifelessness about them.
This one was different, perhaps because although it was mostly made of Pines, it skirts a larger piece of more open, broad-leaved woodland. All the same, you can see from the picture below that it had a slightly forlorn air about it.
It was also wild. No human had been here for a very long time. No boot or trainer had trampled its way through the undergrowth.
The only paths were those made by the delicate feet of deer and rabbit, or the padding paws of many badgers. I love these paths best of all. They have been made over the centuries by the animals who know each nuance of the land far better than I ever could.
One piece of good advice that I was given when I was a boy was that if you get lost in a wood (in daytime) follow the animal tracks. They almost always lead to water, or to another path and from there you can find your way.
As I moved further from the light of the fields into the shadows, a sense of hush filled the air and I decided to sit for a while in one of the patches of sunlight that filtered through the tree-tops.
Looking around, I was aware of many different casts of colour and light. Moss, bright green in places and dark as velvet in others. Last year’s pine needles, now dusty brown. Here and there a muddy pool. In places, whole tree trunks had fallen. They lay around me with their pale branches pointing upwards, like the ribs of great carcases stripped by time.
Sitting still is often rewarding. Nature stops noticing you. Birds and creatures start to drift closer.
A wood pigeon flew into a tree right overhead and began to call with that soft, fluting note that soothes the whole body. Busier sounds then approached as a flock of siskins made their way through the pines, feeding and chatting to each other as they came. A pair of roe-deer appeared and made their way up the steep sides the hill. They were so close that I could see the whiskers on their muzzles and the sunlight in their soft brown eyes.
Nearer to hand a single fly landed on a patch of moss.
I bent over to watch him as he clambered through the feathery strands.
A patch of low-growing plant (to me) was a high jungle to him!
Looking a little further away, a sliver of burgundy caught my eye, an unusual colour in the woods. I walked over to it and found myself looking down on these amazing funghi.
I’d never seen funghi coloured like these. Each one opened out like an oriental fan
Or perhaps a table for little folk to use!
This one looked more like some kind of creature from another planet..
Turning again, a paler colour drew my eye and this time found myself looking down on these wonderful white-and-olive funghi.
Definitely hats for someone of the right size…
At that moment there was a sudden whir of wings. A woodcock took off from the scrub just a few feet away, keeping low to the ground and zig-zagging as it went. It’s a rare thing to see one of these extremely timid birds and I smiled in gratitude to see the bird land a little way off and scurry out of view.
It was time to head home, but the wood had one last gift. As I reached its edge, with the green fields beckoning, a single butterfly flew into view. It was a Red Admiral.
The first butterfly of the year is always a special one and I don’t recall the last time I saw a Red Admiral this early in the season. I watched this one flitter this way and that, in and out of the patches of light, before it disappeared amongst the trees.
With that, I clambered back over the ditch and headed home again.