I’ve decided to follow a new tree for a new year and, in accordance with my pledge to myself to get out of the garden more, I have been into the woods and fields and conducting auditions. I think I have decided, but I’m not entirely sure (I seldom am).
There wasn’t any snow – in fact, the sun was shining, though it was freezing – and I had to complete my tax return, so the only thing to do was leave the house and take a walk. Eighty-five layers of clothing later, and I was up the hill, looking down over the sea. A handy position, because you can – generally – see the weather coming.
(See that grey line over the sea? Weather. Brr.)
Plus, of course, there are plenty of trees. My first possibility was next to the lane; handy, I thought, for access in dodgy weather – and then I slipped on what appeared to be water but which was actually ice. So I went over the stile and took a closer look from a position of greater safety, as they say.
It’s an oak. It really is AN oak – it’s got a split trunk – and was easily identified from the fallen leaves around it, and from the fact that most of the trees in this area are either beeches or ashes or oaks, and it ain’t the first two. Good lichens, good interest (click on an image for a slideshow):
but there’s a disadvantage: something’s been chewing it at the base. Rabbits, maybe; sheep, possibly. Its position close to the lane (and the telephone and electricity wires) means that if there is anything fatally wrong with it, it would be a prime candidate for felling. I don’t think I could take the sort of trauma that Michelle at Veg Plotting had to endure when her followed tree was chopped down.
So, further on. These particular woods are close to the village, and form a perfect playground during the summer…
and I must admit that I’ve enjoyed a covert swing here several times myself, after checking to make sure I was unobserved by anything other than a sheep or two. Quite exhilarating, and definitely puts you in touch with your inner 8-year-old (if my inner 8-year old needed any encouragement, that is). But a tree that’s used for such exuberant playing is unlikely to have much surviving underneath; time to look elsewhere.
Nearby is another large beech. It’s surrounded by bluebells in the spring which would be lovely to write about, so I went and took a closer look at that too.
Definitely a possibility. It’s a lived-in tree (quite literally; something has left an untidy nest), but I’m still not sure.
It’s possibly a little too lived-in. Maybe this area is just too close to the village; the track was covered in footprints, there’d evidently been a lot of sheep around (one of which was no more – just plenty of fleece scattered about, happily no sign or scent of the rest) and in the summer it’s a great place for quad bikes until you get caught charging about the landscape. Well, not me personally, but you know what I mean. I decide to walk a little further in – avoiding sheep remains – and see if I changed my mind.
The old field walls, which have tumbled down in places, are great locations for tree seedlings to take root and grow, with more of a chance of life than they would have if they germinated on open ground. By the time they are big enough to be sheeped, they’re also big enough for some of them to survive the experience.
(I have a shot of sheep standing on this wall in the snowy winter of 2010-11.)
Access, though – hmm. Once the bracken and the brambles grow up, it’s going to be difficult to get close to some of these. So, with reluctance, I think I’ve decided: not in these woods, or at least not for this year. I heard the unmistakeable sound of ravens calling – cranking, really, crronking, prrunking? – on my landward side, and turned round.
I saw another candidate, as well as a few ravens:
Now that is a possibility. It’s a shame that the photograph gives no idea of scale, really, because the bald hill behind is much more impressive than it appears (it’s called Moelfre which means, essentially, the bald place). I think it needs a closer look, but by this time I was feeling LFSEP -late-filing self-employed panic – setting in. Time to go back. And think about where else to go…