My husband and I went for a walk in our local wood a few weeks ago. It was a beautiful day and as we were walking along, enjoying the sunshine, something about the wood felt different to me. At first I wasn’t sure what it was, then I realised that for the first time it actually felt and looked like a ‘real’ wood.
We’ve been visiting the wood for several years now, since we became members of the Woodland Trust. Part of our membership package included having a tree dedicated to us. So one autumn morning we packed up our binoculars and camera and set out to try and find ‘our new tree’. Windmill Piece wood was established by The Woodland Trust as a ‘Millennium wood’ so at the time the trees were just saplings with many less than six feet tall.
Over the years we’ve seen the wood gradually ‘growing up’ and maturing through the changing seasons. In the early years we noticed some of the saplings died over the harsh winter months and then as the remaining ones continued to grow the trees were regularly thinned out to make more space for them. And a few years ago “ridings” were made that run through the middle of the wood adding a further stage to its development.
Today, many of those young saplings are now over 30 feet tall and provide a shady woodland canopy beneath their leafy branches. And on either side of one of the “ridings” the trees branches are so long they form a natural archway as they lean over and shake hands with their neighbours.
I don’t think it’s just us that has noticed this difference either - so has the ‘wild world’. On recent visits we’ve seen a green woodpecker foraging on the ground for food a pair of Red Kites circling over the woodland canopy and heard Sky Larks singing in the field on the edge of the wood.
Recently as a member of Butterfly Conservation we went to the wood for a picnic and to do their Annual Butterfly Count. The count only last fifteen minutes and amazingly during that brief amount of time I recorded eleven types of butterflies – Large White, Small White, Green Veined White, Marbled White, Gatekeeper, Meadow Brown, Ringlet, Speckled Wood, Painted Lady and Small Tortoiseshell.
Oh, and as if that wasn’t enough to entice us back to the wood during the autumn months, it now provides us with blackberries for our apple and blackberry pies and sloe’s for our winter tipple of sloe gin.
Finally, to quote the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds recent advert - if you create a home for nature...nature will come.