A Short Walk in a Small Wood

October 10, 2018

Sod’s law dictates that today’s uncannily fine and warm weather would come when I was labouring under both a work deadline AND a stinking cold, so I was largely confined to sitting in the sunniest part of the house, labouring over the laptop. But days like this are rare enough – and even rarer in October – so after lunch, when I can never really get anything sensible done anyway, I ventured out for a walk in the woods.

half obscured path in woods

Ordinarily, if I need a walk in the company of trees, I head up to where our road ends in a forestry track, but I have been reading the Hidden Life of Trees and I felt the need for something a little less regimented than a forestry plantation.

The other wood is not really a forest, just a scrap of wooded valley too steep and marshy to be of any real use which has been allowed to just get on with it.

steep valley sides

There’s only one path through it, and that’s one that increasingly only makes sense to badgers, so it’s only an out-and-back walk and a bit of a scramble in places. But I like how the fallen trees are just left to fend for themselves.

tilted birch tree

Or become homes for other things.

birch stump with hole

And the only real sign of man’s hand is this mysterious shed with its lucky horseshoe.

mystery shed

It’s not a long walk, and you never quite escape the sound of the road, but having read the book and realised just how much is going on in the apparently placid world of trees (you will never look at a beech tree in quite the same way again) it’s refreshing to be in a place, however small, which feels as if it’s there for itself, not for us. beech in the wood

Given what we’re doing to our poor planet, we need more places like this in the world.


Giving Up the Ghost

September 25, 2016

It seems that trees don’t cope so well without their other halves: cycling back to the veg plot today, I was confronted with this sad sight

fallen tree

The remains of the tree that had been severed by the storm earlier has gone now too. I suppose it’s not so surprising, for the tree must have been left seriously unbalanced, but it is nonetheless a shame.

fallen tree

Meanwhile, down at the plot, some of my veg is taking advantage of my absence and displaying expansionist tendencies.

squash plant

It could be worse though: at least it’s not a courgette, but an acorn squash

acorn squash

In fact the whole plot is rather betraying the fact that it’s only getting a couple of hours of tending a week, not counting any weeding the rabbit might put in.

main plot

Meanwhile, I am coming to terms with the fact that any veg plot at the new house is unlikely to be much bigger than my original first six beds.

original plot

This is the plot I originally started with …

I shall have to be much more selective about what I grow …

Chop and Change

September 11, 2016

There ought to be a word – German, maybe or perhaps French – for the nostalgia you get travelling along what used to be the road to your home, noting the changes that persist in going ahead without you.

Cycling to the ‘allotment’ today to water the greenhouse (which would have been less stressful if there wasn’t a robin in there that reacted to my presence by ignoring the open door and attempting to fly out through various panes of glass instead) I noted that a tree I had long admired had partially fallen victim to the recent winds.

damaged tree

It has always been a landmark on my route home. It’s easy with these things you can cycle past them every day admiring them, but never get around to recording them until they’re gone, but I was pretty certain I had actually stopped to take a photo and sure enough, a quick rummage through my image files found it, albeit not in leaf.

Tree in March last year

It’s now half the tree it was.

half a tree

Perhaps we shouldn’t be too regretful about the removal of the trees around our new house after all …

Half Sprung

April 15, 2014

waiting bike

It’s a tough life, but today I had to add a few extra miles to my route back from Bigtown after yoga to deliver some Pedal on Parliament flyers to a local cafe and farm shop. The sun was blazing down* and dazzlingly bright, but I battled on up hill and down dale, stopping only for a cold drink and a a rest once I had arrived there.

hedgerows and trees

The hedgerows are full of green and blossoms and the skies were full of singing larks, but the trees remain resolutely wintry. We’re not there yet, not quite. There’s still springing to be done…

wintry trees

Sometimes it’s hard work bringing about safer cycling in Scotland, but someone’s got to do it…

gate and green field wintry tree two trees

* you may laugh, but I had not really factored in the insulating effect of having my yoga leggings on under my normal trousers and I was genuinely boiling by the time I got there and was able to do a quick change routine in the loo. It was so hot I even considered nipping behind a bush and just continuing in my leggings but they contain lycra and I was concerned someone might think I was a real cyclist.

Blown Away

May 24, 2011

‘Do you think the tree is going to be all right blowing like that in this wind?’ the other half asked me at some point yesterday afternoon.

‘It’ll be fine,’ I said. ‘It’s pretty sturdy, and besides birch are fairly bendy. It’s the ones that don’t bend that you have to worry about.’

‘Plenty of birches come down in the back woods though,’ the other half said.

‘Yeah, but they’re all thin and top-heavy. This one will be fine.’

Which just goes to show how much I know about trees.

‘Um, look at the tree now,’ the other half said a few hours later

An entire day of high gusting winds, rain and saturated ground had half uprooted the tree, leaving it finely balanced, but rocking with every gust. While the other half – a man with his priorities right – went to rescue his bird feeder, I rang the landlord and we stood and watched it for another hour not quite falling and not quite not falling until a man came with a chainsaw and put it out of its misery.

It could have been a lot worse. The tree managed to fall between the woodshed and the road, missing the telephone wire, our car, the house, the cat and any passing people on the road. The part of the garden it mostly landed on was the part that was getting a bit out of hand, and now I feel that at least I didn’t waste too much time weeding that end of the flowerbed. If it had been anywhere else, we might have had a go at righting it – sometimes they will just re-seat themselves, none the worse for wear – but we just couldn’t risk it that close to the road. And it was ‘only’ a birch tree, not an ancient, magnificent oak or beech, something worth making an effort to save.

But all the same, a tree is a tree is a tree and I do feel bad now for enjoying the wind so much earlier. And extra light or no extra light, I feel the view from our kitchen window this morning is rather diminished by its loss.

Although, looking on the bright side, that is quite a lot of firewood…

If you Go Down to the Woods Today

January 21, 2011

You’ll find that a few days of hard frosts, fogs, and still days have coated everything in rime: every branch and wire and stone, every blade of grass and fallen leaf, every individual twig and needle.

Until the woods themselves seemed haunted by the ghostly shades of trees.

(not of course that these photos even begin to do them justice; I found this afternoon how difficult it really is to photograph the woods for the trees…)