Perry Wood

It’s a balm of leaf light. Catch it on a good day and you can carry it with you for months. This was mid August, now as I write it’s mid October and I’m housebound, too sick to walk in the woods, so I gaze at these photos and remember how we bathed in the green light of sweet chestnuts, how it washed over us, and Perry Wood is a convalescence of trees.

We were staying at Whitstable at a hotel on the seafront with the sound of the waves. We came down on a daytrip to catch the light through the leaves.

It works wonders. We climb a sunken path in dappled chestnut light, mixed with oak and beech, and ahead of us a hollow bowl that was once a quarry, now planted with pines that magically hold the sunshine in its glow.

We come to a picnic table, fixed with a plaque describing the local archaeology, just as an old man (well, my age) comes climbing the steep path towards us, out of breath, and collapses at the table with a grin. As if to claim it before we can. He is accompanied by four children who gather round him protectively, eyeing us warily. Still gasping for air he tells us the pub down the hill is now closed. Oh no, I cry, but that’s why we came!

I’d read of an ancient wood with a pub at it’s centre. It did almost sound too good to be true, but impossible to ignore, so we came to see for ourselves. I dearly hoped the old man had got it wrong and the pub had not closed down.

Today was a Monday, not a Bank Holiday, so the pub was closed for the day.

Oh well, we’ll just have to come back another day. For now we’ve got the woods, and they have us. It’s easy to feel at home here, in an arboreal embrace. The trees watch over us, each one as we pass tells its neighbour we’re coming. They greet us with grace and a green light. We’re spellbound.

Shallow steps slide off the main path and lead us gently uphill to The Pulpit.

The Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

It had prompted an Instagram post – here.

We turned and descended back into the woods.

An ancient oak and a chestnut fence.

An ancient beech.

And before we knew it we’d come full circle back to the Rose & Crown.

And it was still closed.

So we retraced our steps back up to the picnic table on Windmill Hill.

The old man and his grandchildren were still there. They seemed pleased to see us this time. I joked and said the pub was open. We just enjoyed a pint of Sundowner. Ah, he said, we only drink J₂O these days. They were happy with their picnic. One child invited us to see her tree, as if it were her room. They seemed to have taken up full residence in the short time since we first met.

They seemed to have been there forever.

And so back to where we started from, just as a family of tractors emerged from the woods. They crossed the road and ran for the cover of the trees.

There’s lots of coppiced chestnut here, grown and cut on a 15 year cycle for hop poles and chestnut paling. It’s strong and splits easily into fence posts. And the green light of sweet chestnuts is renewed with every cycle.

Perry Wood

Frames of reference

2 thoughts on “Perry Wood”

  1. Thank you for the most beautiful journey through the woods… it was a tonic for my soul!
    I do hope you feel very much better soon.

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