Monday, 17 January 2022

Woodland haven within stone’s throw of busy main road (and pub)

Woodland haven within stone’s throw of busy main road (and pub)

THE A4074 is a busy main road, there’s no doubt about that. The notorious “13 bends of death” runs between Chazey Heath and Cane End and scythes through some iconic Chiltern landscape as it goes towards Woodcote and beyond.

The closest to nature that most drivers will get is to see a dead badger or deer at the side of the road as they zoom by.

If you have some time though and approach this area on foot you’ll find that the dip in the road here reveals a different world. As the traffic flies past, there is a contrasting pace to life here.

To the west side of the road is Green Dean Wood and to the east is Highland Wood, our chosen destination today.

My friend Dave Kenny and I have parked up outside the Pack Horse pub to which we will return later for some lunch.

A gentle and unofficial path from the pub leads to Mill Lane, the old route between the River Thames on the way to Mapledurham via Tinker’s Green. A small diversion down this rural road leads to a splendid track. The sound of the traffic diminishes as we move away from the road and follow a well-trodden path.

Suddenly we are surrounded by wood sorrel, anemones and lesser celandine. A true spring greeting.

This is a haven of beech, holly and glorious yew trees.

Then I spot a wood anemone with a tinge of purple, a true gem. Not since splitting my first quartz stone with a hammer aged four have I seen such beauty.

We stand still as the wood reverberates with the sound of chiffchaffs, greenfinches, wrens and blackbirds. Bring on all the others, I think.

I spend time studying some spongy moss and then look up to find I am alone and lost in a maze of trees. Dave calls me on my mobile phone and sensibly advises me to head towards the sun, so I do and we meet up again. With the main road now distant, we head towards Kidmore End.

We are stopped in our tracks by some very noisy birds. A pair of red kites have taken umbrage at us standing beneath their nest, which is a big, clumsy looking construction.

I did not know how protective these raptors could be and we leave them in peace.

As we head back towards the car, we pick up loads of rubbish probably thrown out of car windows by litter louts. How sad.

Notwithstanding the closeness of the main road with all its noise, there remains the sense that come what may these woods will persist for a long time.

It is a strange thought that some of our loveliest rural spots lie so close to our busiest roads but there you go, nothing a fishfinger sandwich at the pub can’t remedy...

Vincent Ruane

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