For the first time in months we slipped out of the house and into the car and drove to the quietest part of the forest. There were distant sounds of dogs barking from the kennels over the fields and the woods were a chorus of all kinds of birdsong (this place is noted for nightingales) but there were no other people, so that counts as quiet. Some parts of the forest can get overrun, especially on a holiday weekend, but this is not one of them. All day we saw only two other people and they were on horseback. We were the only walkers. But we met many trees. The first was this broken tree, with half of its crown folded and fallen upside down to the ground, its branches radiating all around like an asterisk or a baptismal cross, symbolic of life, death, rebirth and regeneration. It’s a sign of Easter. Would it be renewed and resurrected by the time we returned? I hoped so.
At the top of the hill there was another that had gone before, now cut into pieces, but we must remember to check its stump on the way back.
A fallen hornbeam across the path.
A network of branches
All along the path, on either side, there are ponds of standing water.
Ground conditions are heavy and wet.
On the day of our walk I posted some of these photos on Instagram. A friend commented Wondrous trees and another friend added And some posies! Which got me thinking about primroses and prime roses and maybe a bunch got abbreviated to p’oses, and then Moses supposes his primroses are posies.
A woodland pond
Dead tree standing, bark peeling.
Hollow tree keeping an eye on us.
Horse chestnut buds unfolding, newborn leaves and flowers awakening.
Small miracles springing into life.
And the path takes us through the stable yard.
Put your nose to the screen and sniff this.
Then take in a long view of London.
The hedgerows are heavy with clouds of blackthorn blossom.
And then this great wide ancient oak tree, which always seems to have the sun caught in its branches. It’s hard to get a good photo because the path passes so close that it’s difficult to stand back far enough to take it all in. But up close this time I noticed a curious piece of ironwork protruding from its side. Does it go all the way into the tree’s hollow centre? I hadn’t thought to check. It seems more like a brace to attach to a gate. Maybe there once was a hinge bolted on, that’s been swallowed up into the bark of the tree.
The path was made of mud.
On previous visits this pond has been an unattractive dried out mud-hole, visible only by peering through surrounding banks of brambles. It was good to see it today, unprotected and soaking up the sunshine.
A tree kneeling to drink at the waterhole.
We walked between great drifts of blackthorn.
Sometimes the path was submerged but we persuaded ourselves that it’s good to experience it in all seasons. Shoe-cleaning is traditionally my job, it’s therapeutic and meditative like washing-up. So we continued along the way. All the way there and back again. Much further than we expected, it was our first walk for months and we were making up for lost time, but our legs remembered it all weekend. Walking too is therapeutic and meditative, doing nothing but being myself, coming and going, there and back again.
We retraced our steps and saw the whole walk in reverse . We double-checked what we’d previously overlooked and filled in all the missing pieces. Or so I thought. But mostly we didn’t notice a thing and we left without leaving a trace. These photos are momentary souvenirs. We didn’t put down roots or taste the grass. All of that can wait for another day.
A thread walked through the forest can be hung from a tree. We can untie the thread and climb the tree and from the net woven in the crown of its branches, we can look down and retrace our steps and unravel the thread we walked through the forest today. And we can hang the thread of our walk from another tree in the forest. And we can call it a blogpost.
Mostly it will go unnoticed. But look carefully and there’s a web of threads in the canopy, a network of connections just waiting to catch a falling star.
Shadows and light
Blindness and sight
Daylight and night
Black and white