Friday, 8 May 2009

Ancient tracks and bluebells

There really is nothing that can compare to an English wood at bluebell time and I rose before dawn to arrive at the wood early and wander amongst, and marvel at, the beauty.

The sun splashed through the lime green canopy of new growth and the sweet scent of the flowers was complimented by the subtle aroma of damp earth rising up, carried on delicate tendrils of mist. A dazzling carpet of intense purple-blue accented by the dappled light drew the eye and there was birdsong everywhere to delight my ear. Blackcap, wren, robin, dunnock, wood warbler, chiff-chaff, blue tit, great tit, long tailed tit, all chattered away constantly, and then I heard it, the loud, liquid, exuberance of perhaps the greatest of spring songsters and certainly one of the most romantic; The nightingale. It is almost impossible not to stop and listen to that song and, when it finishes, it's as though the whole wood bursts into silence, despite the exquisite efforts of all the others.

As I wandered the ancient drove track I could sense the thousands of footsteps trod here over the ages and I knew that all those who had walked here in past springs, and all those who were yet to walk here, had and would share the same sense of joy and contentment that I was feeling.
It's an all encompassing experience that simply cannot be captured with images or words and has to be experienced first hand.

The foliage tends to hide the birds in spring woodland and most are only glimpsed briefly as they flit from tree to tree and bush to bush. Sketching them is challenging to say the least and, since I was feeling so relaxed, I decided not to even try and I sat in the soft, damp loam at the base of a giant beech and drew the butresses of his brother across the path instead. There are paths here in this part of the wood, tracks trodden by generations of badgers from the sett at the top of the hill, they trundle along them every night in search of worms and other tasty morsels.

I returned home content that I had caught the bluebells at their peak, by next weekend they will be beginning a noticable decline as the thousands of delicate blooms begin to give way to the dry seed heads and I will have to wait a full year before I can drink in the unique experience again.