Misty moment in Elmstead Woods
The trees – oak and beech mainly – are tall with high and spread canopies. The kind of shapes we might imagine from a tropical forest, rather than those we are accustomed to in parks and gardens where fewer trees are spread around. A sign that they have grown alongside each other for decades, in a race for space and sunlight.
It's misty here. The canopy is just far enough away from us that its leafy tops disappear into the cloud and we can’t quite see their top. They merge into the white and I imagine them going on, and on…
After a few minutes looking up with jaws agape we grow dizzy. So we sit on a nearby fallen giant – one who lost out in the race and gave space for the next generation. We watch and listen.
Every few moments a leaf drops off and see-saws its way down. Rare is a wood so quiet you would hear a leaf fall. On this crisp, chilly autumn day this is one such wood. Some leaves fall more directly and quickly, spinning in a tight twist. Others fall in pairs and seem to plot a double helix path – an outside show of the stuff of life inside it.
Two squirrels traverse the woodland before us, each leaping as it goes from tree to tree, right at the top of the canopy.
Still the fog thickens. The light is fading too. The orange leaves hold their brightness though, and almost glow. So the contrast remains vibrant in the picture perfect view from our log.
Then suddenly we are transported from our oaken autumn to that tropical forest again as the squeak of parakeets interrupts the quiet. Two squadrons zoom overheard, above the canopy, one after the other. The pack has pace and purpose as it cuts a linear flight path in arrow formation.
The magic returns with the quiet. I hear the leaves falling again. Leaf by leaf I can see this ancient woodland change. I know many of these trees have made this change dozens, perhaps scores of times before. And they will do so again many more times I hope. I enjoy the perspective and peace that thought brings.