A late evening walk; a change of perspective. Low shafts of sunlight turn ribbons of bluebells to dusty pink. The low hum of industrious insect life drifts down from the canopy above; bluebell scent mingles with the faint smell of hawthorn blossom. For a few moments, all is tranquillity.
While we stay in our homes, the wood is moving through its yearly pattern, oblivious. Cracked, hot ground has replaced floods; until lockdown, it seemed to rain constantly – since our freedom has been curtailed, we have barely had a shower. Leaves have filled the treetops, plunging the wood into shade, hiding the many secretive inhabitants as they go about their lives. Our bird boxes are furtively entered and exited by their new occupants – we have blue tits, great tits and nuthatches at least; many have eggs, some have young. If you know where to look, you can spot the beady eye of a robin on eggs, peering out through a rocky crevice; you can make out the raised bill and throat of a song thrush whose nest is hidden in the huge root mass of a fallen oak. This all unfolds against the backdrop of bluebell and ramsons; the blue nodding heads and the white pom-poms decorate the woodland floor in synchrony this year and the effect is of frothy waves washing round the tree roots. In the branches there are blossoms of hawthorn, wild cherry, crab apple – it is all very high up, but occasionally a bough is low enough to see the flowers up close in all their delicate beauty.
The wood isn’t exactly quiet, more concentrating, as we walk through it; the wild creatures of the wood are busy. Birds are only really calling in warning when we come too close; no idle gossip going on today. And then I hear it, so close, a call I have not heard for tens of years – a cuckoo. At first, I can’t believe it, but it goes on and on bringing memories flooding back. It’s the first time in their lives that the children have heard this bird’s call.
The magic doesn’t end. I take a detour from the family to check on the Cosy Shed, passing the entrance to one of our setts. There, in the doorway is ‘Old Brock’ – a lumbering big, grey badger who seems to live alone. He sees me, but does not disappear down the sett. Instead, he watches me pass. On my return a few minutes later, he is still there to watch my progress back through the wood. I feel I have been gifted trust; I am honoured that this badger feels safe enough to stand at the entrance to his home as I pass.
I hate to leave the wood this evening. Each time I leave, I try to freeze a picture in my mind – I’m never sure when I might be back. Tonight I take away the memories of a wood with spring in full swing, a wood that is vibrant, healthy and happy. A haven of serenity in the chaos of today’s reality.