wandering in a winter wood

most of the trees have dropped all their leaves now but this oak still has plenty. it’s on the edge of the wood by the bottom of the green lane

the hazels have their catkins all ready to expand as soon as february or before if it’s mild

there’s a section of the wood that seems in a state of collapse. it is mostly elm and ash; the elms get to a certain height then the bark boring beetles find them and spread the fungal disease Ascomycota. the tree reacts by plugging its own xylem tissue with gum and tyloses, bladder-like extensions of the xylem cell wall. As the xylem (one of the two types of vascular tissue produced by the vascular cambium, the other being the phloem) delivers water and nutrients to the rest of the plant, these plugs prevent them from travelling up the trunk of the tree, starving the tree of water and nutrients, therefore, eventually killing it. but the roots are still alive and send up new shoots, so there is a continuous cycle of growth and death in the wood.

 at the moment there seems more death, and rafts of dead trees block the old paths.

on the other side of the wood the spring-fed pools are still dry. at the end of the winter last year this was a large pond. the water bubbles up from the bottom when the spring runs.

the bare branches catching low sunlight. there were long-tailed tits, and then another bird I wasn’t sure of, possibly pied wagtails, running along the high branches, with a “plink plink” call.


and beech predominate – there are some monsters

holly in the lower storeys,

making domed hallways

while hazel grows in these bushy forms, flexible and sometimes trapped into archways

and ancient carcasses sprawl across the woodland floor. but no ash in this main part of the wood.

the wet nature of this land with its springs, sumps, swamps and little stream 

means it’s not suitable for agriculture, though I worry the owner may want to exploit it for growing trees for biomass – hopefully the expense of draining would prevent that. terrible idea anyway.

it’s quite easy to get lost in here, paths entice and bring you only to bramble patches and more fallen trees

as there are so many deer – red, roe and muntjac – I wanted to see if young trees were growing. I recently read an extract of Oliver Rackham’s book on the ash tree, in which he said that woodland oaks were not reproducing due to oak mildew, and hazels due to squirrels. deer nip off young growth too.

I found several young beech trees but no oaks, and plenty of hazels. 

our hedgerow oaks had bumper crops of acorns this year. most oaks grow from forgotten jay stashes.

I’m standing in the soft peaty earth and leaf litter of the dry pond.

there are many standing elms, some dead and some alive, protected by the other trees. 

down here in the almost forgotten centre of the labyrinth I try to find my slow way home.

One Comment

  1. I trust you arrived home safely, Jane!!
    Fascinating, insightful, and a joy to read, as ever. Wishing you a lovely Christmas.

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