Oh boy, is it November or what…
I looked at the weather forecast and decided to photograph my tree a little early. About a week early, in fact, and it’s just as well I did. The wind is storm force (Force 9, to be specific, though it is lessening a little); the rain is horizontal and the clouds are so low, despite the wind, that I can see about a hundred metres. Lovely.
A week ago it was a completely different story:
I don’t expect any of these are still there now. They may be in England, they may have been blown as far as Norway, but I’m pretty certain they won’t be here. I’m not going up to check, mind – the little car park I use was so squishy a day ago that it might as well be under water (it probably is, now) and the path I would take as an alternative to driving is mud. Sorry, that should be Mud. It definitely deserves a cap M. And this is essentially why, although I’ve enjoyed ‘following’ my hawthorn, I will pick a tree a little closer to follow next year.
Anyway, here is my best-beloved, looking lovely in the sun of 1 November:
When I started following the hawthorn I said that the tree’s association with the dolmen did seem to give it a special significance, and I had more confirmation of that. This was, of course, the day after 31 October, Halloween, Samhain, call it what you will – and in the foreground you can just see a blackish area between a few stones, directly below the white spot on the capstone, right at the edge of the shot. It was the remains of a fire, evidently recent because there was just a hint of warmth to it. Not surprising, though hawthorns are more traditionally associated with Beltane. But I expect the tomb is the draw… or, of course, it could just have been fellow archaeologists up there to check any solar alignment.
So what has changed since my last despatch (I didn’t make October as I was away)? Well, there are now no leaves whatsoever, and the haws are patchy – some parts are still covered; others have none, or only very shrivelled ones. Exposure again: I spent some time just leaning against the hawthorn this time and realised, for the first time, that the pressure of the wind can be felt quite strongly, even on the thick branches – and that’s why it has developed so many trunks and roots, I guess.
There are signs of a lot of life in the tree – or perhaps that should be sign of a lot of spiders using it. The low angle of the sun really emphasised that, though it was very difficult to show just how bedecked the tree was with single filaments and whole webs:
The sheep are back, rather more obvious and considerably more noisy:
They’re also considerably less flighty – possibly because the lambs are now huge, possibly because they’ve got used to me (don’t laugh; sheep can recognise a significant number of humans – there’s been academic research into this. Really). Once again, though, I noticed how much more battered this hawthorn was than its neighbours and decided to take a brief tour around some of its companions.
A little further down the hill is an Iron Age hut circle. There are hawthorns which guard the entrance:
and they’ve been stripped of leaves too, despite being in a more shetered position. But notice the oak at the top? Here’s another shot of the whole thing:
All the oaks are like this, still with leaves. I’m intrigued, mind, by the fact the upper leaves are still green; without really understanding in detail, I’d have instinctively expected it to be the other way round. Particularly when you consider the exposure element (oh, yes – the dip in the middle, behind the oak, is the hut circle – it’s huge, would probably have housed an extended family plus some animals).
Quite a few of the trees are ivied, and when I say ‘ivied’ I mean it with a capital letter again:
And the tree still lives.
The gorse is just beginning to flower again, in parts,
though a lot of it is being cleared by the farmers. It had got very overgrown, and it will be back, and so I can’t really lament the extensive cutting back – especially as it is making it a lot easier to see some of the extensive archaeology up here. I’d not really realised how much the gorse had grown up until I took another look at the aerial photograph in the March tree-following post. You can still see grass in that, amongst the gorse. Until the hacking back, you could barely see any; just gorse, and you couldn’t push through it. So what is there, underneath all that? An irregular field system which is probably Neolithic, as is the dolmen; lots of clearance cairns and burnt mounds, some of which are very old, Bronze Age; some old terracing, maybe Neolithic; an old trackway, ditto; traces of huts, both prehistoric and Roman period; lots and lots of medieval stuff. And the old pack-horse routes, of course.
It’s a wonderful landscape, a scheduled ancient monument, and I’m very glad I decided to visit it regularly to follow this tree. But visiting a tree a bit further away – even though it’s not exactly miles and miles away – has also been problematic; I’ve not observed the hawthorn as frequently as I did the birch from last year, for the simple reason that I could pop out of the kitchen door and be at the birch within, oh, twenty steps. So I will go back to following an even more local tree next year. What, or where, I’ve not decided (but it probably won’t involve encounters with feral goats, unlike this one).
And in the meanwhile, farewell sheepies:
I’m up here a lot, so I know I’ll be back. But I definitely got more out of tree following my birch -as a tree following exercise, that is, as opposed to archaeology following, plant hunting, goat avoiding, lichen photographing, mud squelching… oh, hang on, I think that last one would apply with the birch at the mo. Hm.
Apparently some people in this small country are enjoying sun and t-shirt weather, right now. All I can say is this is coming your way. Get your wellies out. And you’ll need vests.