Last weekend, thanks to long-awaited fine, dry, warm weather, we camped at the woods. We have camped at the woods before, obviously, but this time we chose to spend the night out in the open, rather than in a tent. Open camping really does help you to become part of the woodland around you. In a tent, you can hear all the little snuffling and squeaking noises around you, but you are somehow removed from it, by layers of flysheet, groundsheet and tent. Out in the open, it is all happening right around you, and you are so much more part of it than when enclosed in the cocoon of a tent.
Nor were we uncivilized – we walked to the nearby pub for our supper, and watched the house-martins, swallows and swifts swooping down over the canal marina, eating the abundant insects. Then we walked back up the road to be greeted with the most beautiful, colourful and uplifting sunset. We then walked round the woods, watching the last of the swifts and swallows scoop up the evening insects, and listening to the song thrushes singing in the dusk. Finally we set up a couple of chairs in our clearing, brought out a bottle of wine, and sat listening to bats and watching them come out and start their hunting – noctules, common and soprano pipistrelles. It was quite, quite magical.
I found it hard to sleep for feeling so alive and excited, but eventually I did sleep, and woke up to an almost deafening dawn chorus. An early-morning walk around the woods and meadows was also something to treasure. Because I have to do a lot of medical treatment before I can go out in the morning, we rarely get to see it in the morning light, and it provides a completely different perspective on the woods – different areas are lit in the watery warm light of early morning.
Butterflies, dragonflies and other insects are just warming up, and it is easier to see and photograph them than in the heat of the day. And the best prize of all was the discovery of a pair of lapwing in our meadows. They were making a “distraction flight” to draw us away from their young, concealed by one of our ponds. This is so exciting – we have created lapwing habitat, for sure, but were not imagining that they would actually move in and breed here!
They have been there for a few days, too. So they seem to be a fixture rather than passing through. The last week has seen clouds of brown butterflies emerging – ringlet, meadow brown and speckled wood – as well as common blues, small skipper, large skipper and very large numbers of six-spot burnet moths. A kingfisher was heard at the bottom of the woods this morning too – probably on the canal. Added to the hobby flying by the woods a couple of weeks ago, this is really exciting stuff. Our woods are coming to life and growing in diversity and beauty in quite a radical way.
We need to spend more nights at the woods. It is not easy with the constant medical treatment I need to undergo, which in turn requires an electricity supply and a fridge, but we have to find a way to do this more often, so we can experience the magic of a woodland dusk, night, and dawn. It is very, very special.