Place affects me deeply. I enjoy the intimacy of knowing a place well, the reassurance that comes with understanding the lay of the land and where paths and tracks lead, the scents that become signposts of the changing seasons and the various sounds that indicate the time of day.
My early morning and evening walks are a daily ritual and practice that I cannot do without. I go to the same place, varying the walks I do there according to the time of day. Some walks I only do in the morning, others only in the evening. My morning walk includes the sound of running water, a river or stream, and that has an urgency about it. In winter the low sun glows through the mist as it rises from the river and the trees take on ghostly shapes which seem to dance to the music of the water. There is an ancient atmosphere in this place and it is easy to imagine ghosts of men and women on the old drovers tracks and the smell of woodsmoke from the occasional derelict dwellings. In early spring, the abundance of Dog’s mercury is an indication that these woodlands have remained undisturbed for a long time and the bluebells, wild orchids, native wild daffodils and snowdrops add to that history.
The little wood where I take my evening walks is a quiet place. The path leads through a cathedral of towering beeches which in spring become a luminescent lime green. Bluebells carpet the floor and being situated at the top of a hill there is usually the sound of the wind in the trees and the birds to break the silence. The path at the edge of the wood leads down to the river and I love the bare winter branches traced against the dimming light.
I have always felt at home in woods. I grew up in the Chiltern hills and for most of my life have lived among trees. Trees have a sense of permanence, they feel secure. There is a timeless- ness about them because their life is a continuum, a constant evolution through life and death, regeneration and decay. They are a refuge and a sanctuary for plants, insects and animals as well as people and as such we share with them the spirit of place.