Sunday, 4 November 2012

If you go down to the woods today...

When it comes to trees we're very lucky. Although we live in a medium-sized market town, they are all around us. Our hedge is full of hazel and ash, we have apple trees on the allotment, ornamental cherries align the cricket pitch up the road, and huge copper beeches stand next to the railway line. The surrounding countryside is predominantly rural too; agricultural but with pockets of woodland here and there. 



We appreciate the trees on our doorstep but sometimes we yearn for more. This year more than ever; 2012 is the year we fought off the UK government's plans to sell off our public woodlands and forests, and we are more aware than ever of the vulnerability of our trees. Conkers have been in short supply due to irregular weather patterns and pests, and ash die back is big news at the moment.


The woodland we found not so far from home, provided an hour and a half's walk
without seeing another soul.



Given our rural surroundings it's not as easy to find an accessible woodland on our doorstep as you would think. There are the big players, Westonbirt Arboretum and the Savernake Forest, but they are both about 35 minutes drive from here. There are also plenty of smaller woodlands much closer, but you could walk through them in the blink of an eye and they do not always have public access. Thanks to the Ordnance Survey Map of our area, we eventually found a meaty one the size of my little finger (on the map), with a footpath looping around it and an Iron Age fort in the middle. It really is worth knowing how to read a map, in order to find free tree treasures on your doorstep! (Refresh your map reading skills here!)
  

Balancing on a log with a catapault in your hand is harder than you think!
You need a sister to hold onto.

One of the attractions of the Westonbirt Arboretum (other than a greater variety of species) might be the outdoor play trail, but what is a wood if not nature's very own playground? On our walk we found conkers (yes, at last!), balanced and climbed on logs, found sticks to make catapaulty things (Son carries an old shoe lace at all times for accessorising sticks), had an ongoing competition to find the biggest and scrunchiest pile of leaves, made walking staffs, found badger holes, brushed up our tree identification (mostly beech and hazel), and guessed how old the biggest trees were. Who needs to pay to go round an outdoor play trail?!

Have you been down to the woods this year?

12 comments:

  1. Sounds like a wonderful time. Some of my fondest memories with my children are of similar walks surrounding our home.

    Dan @ ZenPresence

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    1. And I'm sure your children have fond memories of those walks too. I certainly have happy memories of that type of walk with my Dad.

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  2. I just looked it up and a conker is what I call a chestnut. I think everyone becomes more alive among the trees. My family certainly does.

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    1. For us conkers come from horse chestnut trees and are inedible; chestnuts come from sweet chestnut trees and can be eaten.

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  3. Trees have such meaning for me. When I was little we had a weeping willow that I would hide under with a book for hours at a time. Glad you found a spot to enjoy.

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  4. That looks like a lovely place for a walk.

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  5. I live in the middle of the woods in Maine and rake leaves for days in the fall. And I love every minute of it. Every season is a gift.

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    1. That sounds an idyllic place to live, and it's great that you see the leaf raking as a pleasure not a chore.

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