Land of oaken glory

Countryfile Magazine - - Editor’s Letter -

As I walked into the lo­cal woods to think about this col­umn, I won­dered why we’re so drawn to wood­lands. There’s a mix on my hill in the Bre­con Bea­cons – deep, dark conifer woods where my foot­steps are muf­fled by many gen­er­a­tions of fallen pine nee­dles. Then there are more open hazel groves stud­ded with oaks and beeches, of­fer­ing light and bird­song, even now in late au­tumn. Some­thing about the quiet pa­tience of the trees, many times older than me, was won­der­fully calm­ing. It’s not hard to imag­ine them whis­per­ing to each other (more on tree com­mu­ni­ca­tion on page 56).

That mys­tery and majesty, com­bined with the un­be­liev­able colours of au­tumn leaves, is some­thing that I’m amazed isn’t front page news. Well, it is for us – so grab your walk­ing boots and head into one of our wood­land-won­der days out that be­gin on page 75.

On the sub­ject of walks, I have a gripe that I share with writer and mule­teer Hugh Thom­son: blocked or scrubbed-out foot­paths and bri­dle­ways. I’ve found this a lot in Mon­mouthshire – foot­path signs mys­te­ri­ously dis­ap­pear­ing; rusty ma­chin­ery or barbed wire where a route used to be; an­gry ‘pri­vate’ signs in pub­lic ar­eas. Hugh found the same as he at­tempted to cross Eng­land with his mule Jethro (page 64): blocked or lost bri­dle­ways at ev­ery turn. Foot­paths and bri­dle­ways are our ar­ter­ies into the coun­try­side. Hugh re­veals that there is a grow­ing fight­back to pre­vent them from be­ing lost.

A crisp au­tum­nal walk – mighty gnarled oak tree es­sen­tial

Fer­gus Collins, ed­i­tor@coun­try­file.com

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