Woods in Winter

Yesterday we got the opportunity just to walk and enjoy the woods – something we don’t often do, as we are usually working. Woods in Winter are really special, particularly when you get a beautiful sunny day as we had yesterday, with the lovely delicate lighting of a later Winter afternoon.

Winter gives you a new perspective on things that look completely different when obscured by leaves and undergrowth. Suddenly the structure of the wood becomes clear. You can see much further and see how various parts of the wood relate to each other. Elements that look harsh in the Summer sunshine, and sinister in the dark and rain suddenly look gentle, and beautiful. You can see the structure in the bark highlighted in the oblique sunshine, the last rays of the sun shining through the last few leaves on the trees, and through the leaves on the ground.

The trees take on an Ent-like appearance, and the whole wood becomes a magical place.

When you are constantly working on a wood, you never really see the progress you have made, so while we were walking around, it was good to reflect on the progress we have made since last winter. Last winter we had constructed the building and road entrance, and partly completed the upper ponds, but had done very little else apart from making a few mown paths. Now we have a long list of achievements: Planting the roadside hedge; planting the thickets; constructing a weatherproof path down to the ditch; constructing a culvert bridge; creating mown paths that will take us right down to the lower ponds; making the lower ponds; installing drainage to reduce waterlogging; installing sluices to control the drainage; having a couple of goes at wildflower meadows – the latest attempt looking promising; preparing the ground for planting new coppice; tagging the trees in the areas to be coppiced; preparing the old goat shed to get a new roof for seasoning wood; building a greenhouse; planting an orchard. That list doesn’t look too shabby!

That doesn’t include the progress we have made in links with community groups including the Scouts, Tamworth Wildlife Group, Womens’ Institute, Forest Schools and Wild Play Groups, and our successful Open Days.

Sometimes it is good to put away the spades, rakes, tractor and its attachments, bow-saw, chain-saw, pruning-saw, loppers, secateurs, brush-cutter and hedge-cutter and just sit back and reflect. In the low afternoon sunlight, we could reflect on a successful year, and look forward to the work to come: planting two new coppice areas, coppicing near the lower ponds, thinning the overcrowded Southern boundary, planting more wildflower meadow and looking at areas of forest-garden on permaculture principles, planning new nest boxes and recording activity in those already present.

As I look at the list of things we’ve done, and the things we plan, it seems we are moving into a new phase for 2010: We are moving from basic infrastructure to the kind of work we’d really like to be doing – work to encourage and improve the site for wildlife and to actually manage the trees and woodland.

So as the watery winter light shone yesterday on our beautiful wood, we have reached a watershed, and hope that 2010 will bring greater improvements, more wildlife, and hopefully more progress when, a year hence, we look again at the woods in Winter.

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