The very best type of woods for me are large, they move from age to age, each whorl in its landscape wearing the personality of some signature tree or consultation of trees. Perhaps an opening amble through a busy flurry of hazel or birch, all sap and energy forging new forest paths through glens and passes. Maybe a genial nod to a clique of straight backed ash, tart and lofty, and here and there a small armada of courtly beech, each possessive of the undergrowth, full sailed with the sense their own beauty no matter what their age . Every now and then there might be a self deprecating flash of Scots Pine, the long and lanky form sprinting to the canopy in a rush to free breaths of tiered branches and needles, gasped out above the wider spreads of older trees soaking up the sun. The best woods have loose gathers of oak, solid and contented gathering the ages, benevolent in pools of undergrowth.
These woods wind and curl, scaling and settling in dusty sinewsteps through protruding roots, roots that propel you onwards with extra bound, granting spring even to feet deeply encased in shoe leather. Moods wander with the changing light; brisk and easy with the dapple of young trees, ponderous and given to awe where deeper shadow is pierced by shafts of god light, drawing attention to tiny divinities of single leaf, shiny beetle or glistening cobweb. A good wood is the exploration of all feelings, a retelling of memories, the sharing of energies while you nibble young lemony beech leaves and suffer stark reminders of your crumbling joints as careful steps are now required stepping down from stones where once you might have bounced and ran.
Good woods explode with the the domesticity of forest birds disturbed but not overly alarmed by your intrusion. Good woods, the best woods, have brown blooded rivers tumbling excitedly over rocks that once in a while deep voice their scraping grumbles , but mostly lie content, glistening and silent, shaped by their long intimacy with water. Where water rushes it parts in plashing silver tendrils, cold and tingling on your feet. Where it meanders dark and heavy the slooshing drag urges fevered thoughts be calmed. Where the river path reveals the canopy light gives rise to stands of ox eyed daisies of tangles of vetch, huge shiny beetles plod their invisible paths amoung the twigs and pads of moss of many greens. Good woods have alcoves and nooks to make secrets in, and open into deeply easy dozing clearings. Good woods have insect glyphed leaves, stray feathers, occasional pungent pools of hormonal scents that pull at your nose, trails of fast fleeing creatures under anenome leaves, visible only as direction and motion. A good wood has skulls as well as infant voices yelling for attention, falling branches sacrificed to nourish the elder tree, weeping sores that bone bleach and scar the trunk beneath, cascades of petals angling across the path. A good wood spirals with fungi and new saplings, surging to fill the gap of a fallen ancestor. In a good wood we can harness wood and burls and rocks and fire for we have in ourselves the desire for comfort, for craft and art and the instinct for survival. A good wood is all things, the dying oak, the sapling birch, the wheel of falcon and the feint of parent finches telling you ‘really the nest is this way, over here!’ A good wood is layers of tiny voices underpinning the more obvious motifs of blackbird or wren, the varying forces of breeze breath, the tones of wood on wood, snuffles, fleet footfall, minor snaps and cracks.
A good wood is enormous in time, past and future, what has fallen and what exists only in potential, surging with purpose and cycles and yet so utterly the immediate, a weightless moment it gives to you for just that moment there, unrepeatable.