A tale of two forests

Today was #internationaldayofhappiness and I was lucky enough to have a half day from work. It is also Spring Equinox and I’ve had burning feet for days. There are some days you go to the forests and they’re all about the shyly winking primroses and the flirtatious glimpse of feather vanishing into the thicket. Other days they seem to come haul you away from what you’re doing by the front of your shirt with a “PAY ATTENTION TO ME!” shriek of wheeling birds of prey overhead, carpets of wild garlic glinting their solid dense green after a shower, and trees clattering like a tribal summoning or eeeking like ancient doors opening and closing. So I paid some attention and went first to the Old Boardwalk and then, after I picked up the lads, to Blackwood.

The old board walk wood starts – for me anyway, in Rahan and runs through a small wood to an actual board walk running across Clara bog and then through another section of forest up a slope towards roads leading, eventually, to the main road between Clara and Tullamore. The track has a lot of gravel and the bog itself is never too far away, meaning you get visiting heather and froachán (bilberry) bushes in spots. Birch, hazel, willow and holly abound, but there are some old oaks and beeches too. Gorse does a bit of a guard of honour trick before you get into the wood properly. It’s a narrow, airy wood with a wide path and lots of forest floor interest. My ideal woods would have a river – I adore the way light plays on river wate – but none of the close by woods have one. Sometimes the bog supplies little path streams some days after rain storms, and they can hit the spot when the light ripples.

I kind of love this, this is one birch tree, as fas as I can tell, and one trunk is pale and the other black, and the honeysuckle binds them together. Honeysuckle is rampant in both woods, there are all sorts of interesting cords of it winding everything together

The moss is lush, some of it I have to double take on because it looks like a much more like it’s attempting to be a fern sometimes. As I’ve mentioned before there are carpets of wild garlic in patches throughout the boardwalk wood, much, much less in Blackwood. Wood sorrel and anenomes (or nanenenomees as my tongue still persists in mashing them to sometimes) dot around while violets absolutely rule the roost. I have never seen so many violets as I have in this wood this year. Today I tried to stalk bumblebees. This was my success at the Board walk..

There were a couple of bumblebees and they droned pleasingly around the forest litter but were clearly too engrossed for photo opportunities. The birds, on the other hand, were indignant and busy. I was having a bit of a nose around in one section of wood looking for fungi and was wondering why two small birds were particularly irate (I think they were tits, but the light was directly behind them and they flitted about crazily) when I realised I was quite close to their nest. I backed off respectfully and ooooohed and ahhed at a slightly less panic inducing distance – it was a stunning thing of great cute, this photo doesn’t do it any justice at all but at the distance I took it with my phone I am quite pleased it came out at all.

This wood has a lot of large brackets or polypore fungi. I’ve been admiring a particularly fine example for some time, I’m always sort of surprised it’s still there. Today I noticed a whole colony of them growing along a trunk of what looked like a decapitated birch. I didn’t go closer out of guilt disturbing the poor birds but I’ll take a better look next time. the last two photos below are from previous trips to this wood.

Blackwood is a two part wood with tons of personality, owned by Coillte. If the board walk is all about the violets, Blackwood is all about the primroses and barren strawberries. The beginning is a beech wood that’s had a small amount of thinning happen through it many years ago. There is a great big gravelly pit not far from the entrance that has been the source of family conspiracy theories for years. There are some very tall pines with just their tops in leaf, evidence that they usually compete far harder for light than they are currently having to. The fungi here are smaller, the brackets tends towards crops of the turkeytail type

The beech part is sectioned off by large stile gates from a much wilder wood, full of thick birch, hazel, aspen and willow growth around some very, very fine older trees hidden off the paths down fox and badger paths. Catkins of all varieties hang over the wide pathway

And of course blackthorn blossom

There are some particularly marshy spots and some of the trees have gotten pretty battle scarred, I was pleased to see this bling on a particularly feisty birch

Suddenly we walked into a bumblebee festival. It was as if they all came to show off having heard me bewail not being able to look at them properly earlier. Photographs were still difficuly because they were up around catkins with a bright sky behind them and, as ever, they did insist on moving, a lot. But I stalked a couple til I finally got a couple of shots

And so, mission accomplished for today, I went home to drink tea, the proper and true drink of any happiness day.

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