Countryfile Magazine - - Lazy Days - Matt Baker Watch Matt on Coun­try­file on Sun­day nights at 6.30pm on BBC One.

For as long as I can re­mem­ber, my Dad has been ob­sessed with wood. It’s a pas­sion he’s in­stilled in me. “Just smell that tim­ber son, feel the grain, beau­ti­ful...” was some­thing I heard a lot grow­ing up. Ad­mit­tedly, as a kid I never saw the magic of a piece of freshly cut wood, but now I to­tally un­der­stand where he was com­ing from. ‘Wood’ is such a small word for some­thing that, whether we re­alise it or not, is in­te­grated into most of our lives and so of­ten taken for granted.

I feel ex­tremely for­tu­nate that our fam­ily farm has 25 acres of an­cient wood­land, hous­ing some huge ses­sile oak and an­cient holly trees tens of feet high. Ap­par­ently holly was planted around the oak saplings to keep roam­ing deer from eat­ing them.

The trees, with their un­der­score of an­cient pas­ture, blue­bells and wood sor­rel, show us the chang­ing sea­sons ef­fort­lessly. Just now the big old oaks are turn­ing yel­low and or­ange. The tiny green berry buds of the holly tree are get­ting ready to burst with colour. How­ever, it’s not all ro­man­tic colours and birds singing in the back­ground. There is a lot of de­cay in an old wood­land – trees blown down with roots ex­posed, self-seeded birch keeled over after a 50-year life­span, de­cay­ing into a wet ground cov­ered in lichen and solid horse­shoe fun­gus. At one end of the wood is an old rook­ery – the birds gather ev­ery evening close to the house at the top of the hill, then, with great squawks, de­scend en masse into their nests at dusk. The ground be­neath is sour and bare, scorched with years of their muck burn­ing the soil.


We have tried to keep the wood­land ecosys­tem as healthy as we can while in our keep­ing. We’ve planted oaks, hazel, black­thorn and alder to en­cour­age birds and but­ter­flies. This has proved fruit­ful, with wildlife num­bers ris­ing year on year – treecreep­ers, cuckoo, wood­peck­ers and tree spar­rows are just a few who en­joy the woods.

A pond scrap­ing en­cour­ages in­ver­te­brates; more frog spawn ap­pears each spring. Gorse can be trou­ble­some and, left unchecked, could take over the wood­land floor. Care­fully timed lim­ited graz­ing is the best form of de­fence, so we have in­tro­duced a small flock of He­bridean sheep to help tackle the prob­lem. They will hap­pily munch through it, their tiny feet hav­ing no im­pact on the del­i­cate flora. Fallen trees are sawn and stacked to dry out for use in our wood­burn­ers and stove, and for bugs and grubs to live in. We make bird and bat boxes, re­turn­ing the wood to the trees in a whole new way. “Wow, just look at the grain on this,” I hear my­self say­ing to my son as he learns how to use a saw, know­ing full well that one day he, too, will ap­pre­ci­ate its value.

“We’ve planted oaks, hazel, alder and black­thorn to en­cour­age birds and but­ter­flies”

BE­LOW Matt’s wood­land is a beau­ti­ful, ever-chang­ing world of growth and de­cay, as old trees fall and new saplings rise

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