Land of oaken glory
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, firstname.lastname@example.org