I have been judged numerous times for saying that the forests are magical, but if you stand silent, in the middle of a dense ancient woodland, you may witness some magic yourself.
Now, we all know that trees and plants have been around for millions of years, but of course those ones are basically now oils and coals under the ground. However, imagine yourself stood in the same spot for a thousand years or more. How much history would you see? What would you have seen? How would you advise others? A small history lesson this way comes..
In a field on the edge of the small town of Bourne in Lincolnshire, there sits an Oak tree (pictured above). Just over 1000 years ago the Bowthorpe Oak was a small acorn that began to sprout. To put this in perspective, England was now in the Middle Ages, America wouldn’t be discovered for another 400 years, and it would be 926 years until the current Queen of England was born. Little did that small acorn realise that it would live through every day between then and now, narrowly being missed by a German bomber crash landing after being shot down in World War 2, having its hollow 12 metre trunk being turned into a small coffee meeting area for locals and also winning a Guinness World Record. It was also rumoured that at one point 39 people managed to stand within it. The idea that a grand old oak in your local woodland is likely to have been living longer than you will ever live, before you were even born, is stunning. If you were to plant an acorn, the chances are, it could well outlive you and me one hundred times or more.
Over those thousand plus years, just imagine what the Bowthorpe Oak would have seen, imagine the stories it could tell, imagine the lessons it could teach. Not surprising that they are known as ‘the kings of the forest’ or simply ‘the great oak’. To me, simply the age adds a real personality.
So when I’m walking through thousands and thousands of acres of real ancient woodlands, it’s nice to imagine being looked upon by the elders of the world, holding thousands of years of knowledge and stories between them all. This is why I find it impossible to find myself feeling lonely in the forest.
At the time of writing, we are currently moving from Winter to early Spring. I find myself walking in the forests all year round, and sadly, but not surprisingly, the past couple of months have been quiet as far as visitors go. I can walk for hours and not see or hear a single person in the Winter or even as far back as late Autumn. Ray Mears once said ‘if we only go out in Summer, we miss out on three quarters of a lifetime’, and this couldn’t be more true.
At a quick glance you wouldn’t be wrong to assume that in early March the woods are
cold, wet and, in general, rather uninviting. However, look closer and you see that, almost like a dress rehearsal, you can see that something enormous and beautiful is about to take place. On the ground hidden beneath the fallen leaves are the early shoots of the Bluebells steadily pushing through. Buds on trees are swelling, waiting for the next boost of sunlight to encourage them to bloom. Within a month, maybe less, the trees will be blossoming, the bluebells will be blowing in the wind and then soon enough young animals will take their first steps out of their dens and hides to discover a beautiful new world. The trees almost huddle together, like cupping a match in your hand, to protect this new growth and their young and old furry companions.
‘So why do you want to spend time in the countryside? There’s nothing there.’ Shocks me every single time I hear it. Throughout my blogs of just small thoughts like this one, or informative ones (hopefully), like those to come, I will be gradually answering that question with my own personal insights, and hopefully, if this takes off, you fellow readers can take your own stance on the question and share your ideas. I’ll also be letting you all into the secrets that every season of the year holds, everything they share with us, and everything they set the rest of the year up for, hopefully encouraging more and more people to get out and about all year round.