A walk through the woods (tree following, April 2015)

Bank Holiday weekend, and I should have known better. The weather was most peculiar, with a heavy sea fog blanketing the bay and making anywhere fronting it about 10 degrees colder than places inland. Get to about the 100m contour line, and you were looking out over a sea of fog with the mountain tops protruding in a rather unearthly manner – and you were in bright, warm, delightful sunshine. So when I drove up to the little car park I use when I walk along to the hawthorn I ‘follow’ every month, I found it full.

A bit lower down there’s a muddy spot which locals know is actually safe parking, but it’s an uphill bash back to the car park and the hawthorn. Or I could walk through the woods to get to my tree. It was no contest… fancy a walk? walk to the woods The woods are old coppice, at least at the start – they get a bit wilder once you’re through the gate at the end of this path. Just before you reach the gate there are some rather prolific hazels, but I’ve never managed to beat the squirrels to the nuts. streams It’s been dry for some days, but it always takes time for the woods to dry out. Some parts were decidedly squishy, which didn’t surprise me but which did startle the family I met coming in the other direction. They were staying on a nearby campsite, which doesn’t really explain why the mother was wearing stilettos. But, chwarae teg / fair play, she was giving it a go. Good for her. beech mast In dryer parts it is quite clear from the forest floor that most of the trees are beeches, and there were patches of wood sorrel and quite a few celandines. In about another month or so the woods will be so full of bluebells that you can smell them long before you see the first hint of blue – maybe they’ll feature in next month’s post.

The woods are criss-crossed with paths, and I chose – bearing in mind the squishiness – to follow the higher ones. They give occasional glimpses of the hills on the opposite (southern) side of the valley – the woods run roughly east–west – which will soon be invisible behind a screen of leaves. uplands However high the path you follow, though, they all dip down to a general meeting point and run along the river. This is the Afon Ysgethin, and it is just magical. Sometimes in summer I stop work and bring a sandwich lunch and a flask up here and just chill by the river for 30 minutes or so.

There are always things to see – lots of birds like treecreepers and dippers, sometimes a kingfisher, sometimes a lady in stilettos… Ysgethin Parts of this area are an SSSI, which is probably not surprising. The ferns are something else. They grow everywhere, including on the trees: ferns and one, the hay-scented fern Drypoteris aemula, is rare in North Wales (in fact, this is one of the few places where it is found). But this dawdling over other trees wasn’t getting me closer to my followee, so I followed the path back up again to come out of the cover of the trees by the ‘English shelter’, the old drovers’ stop.

Once out in the open, then sun was quite hot and I soon shed my waterproof and a then another layer. I turned back, walking roughly parallel to the woods but above them, going along the single-track road towards the hawthorn. The gorse this year is amazing: gorse and the whole of this area smelled very strongly of coconut – not off-putting though, except it made me think of ice cream, and then of cold drinks and how nice it would be to shed my walking boots.

The dolmen by the hawthorn isn’t the only archaeology up here: the whole area is littered with evidence of previous generations. One remarkable place is an Iron Age roundhouse just below the road, so I took a detour to see if the badger sett nearby looked as though it was inhabited (and if it was, had they damaged the site). It wasn’t, and they hadn’t: round house The dip in the middle is the (blurred edges now, mind) floor of the round house, and the trees are growing out of what were once the walls. The dip at the back between the two scrubby hawthorns would have been the entrance. It’s pretty big and could easily have housed a large extended family. Distracted, again!

But my target wasn’t far off. Five more minutes, and I was confronted by ‘my’ tree – and by a hawthorn that appeared to be almost exactly the same as it had been last month. After a few minutes of wandering around it, I realised that it wasn’t. Not quite: hint of green! Woo! A hint of bud break! Spring!

Thanks to Lucy at Loose and Leafy for running the ‘tree following’ meme, and apologies that this month’s post hasn’t been more about the tree itself. Blame the Bank Holiday, the weather and my ability to be as easily distracted as … well, as anything that is very easily distracted!


20 Comments Add yours

  1. Erika says:

    Seems like a lovely place for a walk. In proper shoes 😉

    1. kate says:

      One of my favourites, certainly – and lots of other people (happily the quadbikers seem to have moved on).

  2. Pauline says:

    I’m so glad you were distracted, it made your walk very interesting!

    1. kate says:

      There’s always an upside, or so I like to think… generally…

  3. Hollis says:

    The river scene is beautiful — how nice to have a place like that for a lunch break!

    1. kate says:

      I wish it was a tiny bit closer – if I do it for a lunch break, I do have to drive a bit. Walking through, I lose too much time – but hey!

  4. Spade & Dagger says:

    I wonder if the camper in stiletto shoes is the same woman as the one who faffs about on an allotment near mine in flip flops in December.

    1. kate says:

      Sounds possible… chilblains!!! Ouch!

  5. Spade & Dagger says:

    P.S. love the welsh version of the tree fern.

    1. kate says:

      Hah – never thought of it quite like that!

  6. I love the greenery — the mosses and ferns are so luscious. And your tree bud is quite magnificent.

    1. kate says:

      The mosses here are stunning. Takes me back to being child and entering moss gardens in our village show – we’re reintroducing them to the garden club show. Alas the oldest class is 12-15, ever so slightly too old for it. Rats.

  7. Angie says:

    I much appreciate your distraction, nice walk and a very interesting one too. I noticed only the other day that the hawthorns are almost out now here, I’d have expected them to be behind a bit from you being further down south. I’m sure next month, things will be quite different.

    1. kate says:

      Thank you – glad you enjoyed it. On Monday someone told me that the bluebells in the woods have suddenly come on a lot, so I must check them out. Don’t want to miss anything!

  8. Cathy says:

    Thanks for taking us along on your walk – such interesting diversions. And a very nice hawthorn bud…

    1. kate says:

      Have been out and urging temperatures to rise a bit more – may have to take a mid-month weak up there to ensure I don’t miss full bud burst (hardships…)

  9. Our hawthorn in the hedges has quite suddenly come into leaf. I love the eye popping colour of green which it is when it first bursts into leaf. It will hold onto that for about two weeks before it dulls. Lovely, And lovely blog.

    1. kate says:

      Isn’t it a stunning colour? Wonder if I can find it in yarn?

      I’m going to take a walk up to my tree this afternoon – you’ve inspired me to check it out, because I don’t want to miss that stage. Hm – if I had chosen a garden tree I could just pop out of the door, tea in hand…

  10. Beautiful walk – though not in stilettos. I’m not sure any walk, anywhere, would be beautiful in stilettos! Have you been to the iron age reconstruction by the windmill on Anglesey? Llynnon – you should come over and stay some time and we’ll go, they’be done an amazing job of it. As to the gorse, it is enough to knock you over the scent is so strong on a sunny still day. Always reminds me of sun tan lotion, not that we’ll be needing that for the next few days.

    Heartening to see the bud break on your tree, it looks to be at the same stage as mine, which I still notice more than I used to thanks to following it for a year.

    1. kate says:

      I’ll definitely have to visit that – sounds fascinating. Sometimes these reconstructions can teach you loads – in fact, generally they can.

      And despite the recent dry weather, the woods are still squishy. Must go and check the bluebell situation – where did I put my stilettos?

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