There are spirits to be found in Britain’s ancient woodlands….
Watch for flocks of little birds streaming through the wood, with treecreepers and nuthatches shinning up (or down) the trunks.
Search for tracks; deer and foxes certainly, but also the five-toed impressions left by badgers.
See markings left by medieval woodsmen. The earth banks they made to demarcate their land or the strange bumps and dips that show the remnants of charcoal burning or a sawpit, where two men would have worked a giant saw.
Discover multi-stemmed ash trees or hazel bushes, with bases measuring several metres in diameter. These are trees that have been cut for wood and allowed to regrow since time immemorial (one living tree in Westonbirt Arboretum probably pre-dates the Roman invasion by several centuries).
Or find a pond that survives from a time when cattle were driven along green lanes to market, stopping in the wood to drink.
Words by Derek Niemann. Image of Waresley Wood in Autumn, courtesy of Derek Niemann.
Derek Niemann is the author of A Tale of Trees: the battle to save Britain’s ancient woodland. The book recalls the period after the Second World War when up to half of Britain's oldest woods were cut down for farming, or replanted with conifers, destroying the bluebells, primroses and wood anemones that had made them so unique. It tells the tales of those who cut down these woods and those who have tried to save them...
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