Tuesday, 28 January 2020
I HAVE read in the press that going for regular walks in the countryside is of great benefit to mental health. I’m sure it is.
I’m out and about at least twice a week and this forms part of my life. I simply can’t stop so maybe that is why I’m always the chap with the glass half full.
Whether or not there is any veracity to this scientific speculation, I venture forth today with my pal Matt Coome for a stroll around some of the most botanically rich woods near Goring.
It is a very interesting time right now. If you like to seek out wildflowers then there are plenty to encounter as they surface from their subterranean hibernal slumber. Many more will follow.
These early flowers parade their polished beauty, from the dainty little fairy flax (Linum catharticum) to the boisterous common figwort (Scrophularia nodosa). The narrow pathways that criss-cross the glades that fill the gaps between the trees are buzzing with activity. Bumblebees crash about like airborne rhinos.
A red admiral butterfly settles at our feet, a speckled wood dances around our ankles. All looks well today. A pair of bouncing rabbits seem to be enjoying life too. Woodland grasses abound in the spaces where were once were beech and ash trees, victims of storm and infection.
Stopping for a moment to wonder at a beautiful blue sky above the tree canopy, we gaze at the pristine panorama.
All of a sudden we hear the dulcet tones of a garden warbler (Sylvia borin), another summer visitor.
Inconspicuous by dint of its olive plumage, it sings a marvellous melody. Other people may rave about the nightingale but for me there is no contest. This bird wins for me and I’m really happy to witness and hear its return in a lovely setting.
A very large and majestic oak with a tremendous girth reveals a secret. Tucked into and low down on the tree’s gargantuan trunk lies a small cleft, the kind that may have gone unnoticed until a tiny blue tit hesitates, checks for danger and dives in with a morsel for one of its nestlings.
Many folk help these decidedly cautious birds by placing nest boxes in their gardens which I applaud but there is nothing to compare with seeing these cute and earnest creatures in a wild setting.
Elsewhere the nature of our woodland is changing in rapid manner. Many trees have been felled due to disease or for commercial gain.
Beech trees seem to form a collective approach to be number one but the odd oak searches for the heavens and outstrips its close relative height-wise.
Unlike its brothers and sisters that spread without challenge in open land, the oak exhibits an extraordinary determination to claim the sky.
Meanwhile, the odd whitebeam, crab apple, cherry or field maple stake their claim seemingly unnoticed.
Underneath the weighty boughs the flowers of elder shine in dappled sunlight. They have a wonderful scent. I always find it a shame that no sooner are they out than they are gone.
We live on an island and our weather is fickle but don’t we live in a lovely place on earth?
20 May 2019
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