Although I was born and grew up in a London suburb, awareness of nature was hammered into me, partly by my family, partly by primary school, where the “nature table” was obligatory in every classroom and was always piled high with artefacts, and partly by the nature books that lay around the house. It was while poring over these behind the sofa that I began to learn my flowers.
The turn of the season is felt, not so much as a drop in temperature or the way the need for warm socks and waterproofs creeps up on you, but in the way the woods smell different. Decaying leaves, leaves still on the trees but for whom decay is imminent: the smell, for me, of being 11 years old and at a new school, where our introduction to Biology was the invitation to compile a Biology Scrapbook over the course of a year.
Still, sultry mornings make taking photos of wild plants easier … but watch out for the flies…
…sated with flowers, I drifted back to the path, casting hopeful glances into the mossy ditches and banks beside the track. It was June, early for the summer edible mushrooms, but not too early to look…..
Wandering into Five Mile Wood last week, I was considering what might turn out to be the wood’s gift this month when I got distracted by a long-ago fallen log. Or rather, the holes in it.
We met up at the Taymount Wood car park, Linda and I, put on our boots and turned away, not into the gate. This was to be the long road to the woods, a circular walk via the disused railway line which once ran as a ponderous branch from Stanley across the River Tay to Coupar Angus.
A recent walk to Five Mile Wood on a blisteringly cold and windy March day forced an awareness of how open it is – and that gave me this month’s challenge right away. Part of the means of rising to the challenge may come from the gift!
This is the first in a new series of posts for West Stormont Woodland Group. From fear or repeating myself, I thought I’d write about the fact that each month, the woods have a Gift for us. And every month, there is at least one challenge that faces us – whether physical, philosophical or organisational – in contemplation of owning woodland as a community.
It’s a bit like walking on ball bearings in some woods this year. They slide away under your feet and you slide with them, temporarily on arboricultural ice, until crack-crack-crunch, and you’ve squashed them. The little oak-trees-in- waiting. Acorns. Acorns galore. 2020 is what’s called a “mast year”, when all the oak trees seem to produce more acorns than it is possible for the squirrels, mice, jays and other nut-inclined creatures to harvest or store.
I pause on my way through the woods, quietening my breathing, keeping as still as I can. There is no sound, there is no wind. There should be no movement. Yet within the vascular systems of the broadleaved trees that bound the track, small enzyme changes are at work, invisible changes that lead to letting go, abscission, leaf-fall.