Spring woodland wildflower bonanza

  Go down to the woods today! The Spring woodland flowers are in full bloom. In their race to flower and be pollinated before the overshadowing trees come into full leaf, intercepting the sunlight before it reaches the woodland floor, many different varieties of wildflower richly carpet the woodland floor, thrusting up their colourful flowers a quickly as possible. A tapestry of whites, blues and yellows patterns the bright green leaves, while sweet scents drift through the still woodland air.      Throughout this dazzling variety, but really only visible to those or take time to observe quietly and carefully, a great number of insects move through the plants’ foliage from flower to flower. Early bees bumble around, both pollinating and searching for small holes for their nests. Spring butterflies of several kinds flap silently, switching between their search for nectar, and basking in the sunlit glades. A host of other smaller and more discreet flies, wasps and midges, tempted by the

March 2022

  Awake to the English rain forest As I turn off the noisy main road onto a tiny quiet lane, I am immediately surrounded by scrubby hawthorn trees which have sprung up on this abandoned corner. As soon as enough scrub separates me from the road to provide a visual barrier, the air changes and my mood changes with it. I hear the piping of a score of small birds flitting in the branches, I smell the damp earth. So conditioned to the industrial sounds and smells of our urban world as we are, it is a shock to suddenly have my senses awakened to the emanations of nature. They alert in me a different feeling, an alertness to a slower rhythm and more ancient cycles. The hawthorn trees have grown up on disturbed ground, perhaps an old quarry, or workings from the time when the lane was first sealed. These scrubby trees have now reached their maturity, between them birch, ash and some oak fill in the gaps. My attention is drawn to one particular oak – older than the others. The old woodman’

January 2022

  The turn of the year Despite the newness of the season, it being only 7 days since the Solstice, the first stirrings of a new year are noticeable. I went through the woods by Gunpowder Gorge where the river charges through a narrow limestone gap. The woods are a relatively new arrival, maybe 100 years old, with trees growing thickly on a shallow sticky marl which oozes wet all year. In the last few years the birch trees have been falling like matchsticks. Now the woodland floor is a like a giant game of pick-up sticks with a jumbled mess of silver stems lying crisscrossed and intertwined. This dead wood, though far from aesthetically pleasing, will provide vital food for the processes which might turn this young wood into a more mature naturalistic state. The dead wood is being colonised by a wide range of fungi and no doubt by saproxylic beetles. The fungi with their immense spread of underground hyphae not only process the decaying wood, but play a role in incorporating it into