With bated breath and eyes focused ahead for the slightest movement, the young teenage boy edges closer to the fox earth. After a 5 mile bike ride out of town and a steady walk in, only a few feet now remain before he can reach the old rotting log that will conceal him from the earth’s occupants.
Unseen for most of the year, they erupt as if by magic across the woodland floor in a dazzling display of colours and forms through August to November. Their underground rooting network is so fine and dense, there can be 300 miles of fungi mycelium under each footstep. The mushroom fruiting body we are so familiar with is merely the means to spread their spores to the wind.
They have inspired poets, writers, lovers, artists and dreamers the world over since the dawn of human existence. Their infinite blend of colour and form, fragrance and beauty have become such an integral part of our lives, that a world without them is simply inconceivable. Saying it with flowers is equally as profound a statement at funerals as it is at weddings and other celebrations. They adorn our gardens, streets and work places, our clothing, dinner plates and even our bodies in body art.
He raises his foot, in anticipation of the pain that never comes, as the familiar sound of a buzzing bee in panic is heard and felt beneath his foot. Once stung twice shy – being more of a rule of thumb than a casual saying with barefoot walkers. Now feeling somewhat guilty at his clumsy intrusion, he examines the unfortunate casualty that’s still struggling to regain composure. “Believe it or not, this is your lucky day” the man jokes aloud as he lifts the un-amused and bewildered bee with one hand while reaching into his bag for a small jar of honey with the other – a rare treat only ever carried on long arduous days such as this.
The female roe deer stands alert, yet unflinching as the dogs race past her. Oblivious to her presence, their attention is fixated on her mate who – unlike her – began barking loudly at the first sight of the dogs and their owner. His actions betraying not only his presence, but also his inexperience and impetuosity of youth. Not surprisingly, the unleashed dogs immediately responded and began the chase. However the roebuck is on home ground and easily evades the dogs and they soon return to their frantic owner.
The rusty orange coat of a fox is illuminated in the early morning dappled sunlight. Body primed in eager anticipation, as its acute hearing detects some unseen rodent under the vegetation. A few metres away amongst the fallen dead branches and leaves, the black un-blinking eye of a woodcock watches its every move, poised to escape at the last second from the nest where she is incubating 4 eggs. Her mottled plumage so perfectly in harmony with her surroundings, she is almost invisible even to this supreme hunter.
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.