#StayWild Tip: Hunt for woodland beauty. Head to the woods and immerse yourself in the sounds and smells.
Being in the woods is my favorite type of wild place. When I was at high school in Worcester I would walk to school through a small area called Perry Wood. The woods have a long social history, including fortifications and occupation by Oliver Cromwell’s forces in the final battle of the English Civil War, with trenches quarries and cannon emplacements. I used to build dens with friends and watch for grey squirrels, foxes and woodpeckers, largely oblivious to the battle-shaped landscape, and it was a wonderful place for a young boy to explore.
I knew then that woods reward patience. The trees and leaves respond to stillness, and reveal secrets to the unhurried. Sit awhile, and the life that scurries and scampers into hiding at your approach will cautiously return. The parallax of green and brown resolves, and furtive motion can be singled out for study.
For today’s wild day, I chose to meander through some smaller paths in Coilhallan Wood. The wood is a mix of broadleaf and conifer, and today it was damp and pungent with earlier drizzle. Occasional fat raindrops would bounce loudly through the canopy.
I came across this thrush trying to beat a large black slug into submission. It seemed to be getting rather messy and eventually gave up and hopped off for something less slimy.
Further along I heard a loud and repeated “too-wheep” bird call that I wasn’t familiar with. I paused, and stood very still. I recognised chiffchaff, chaffinch and warbler calls, and it sounded a little like these. I waited. A trio of lesser spotted woodpeckers, likely a family with juveniles, moved amongst the oaks then were gone.
I finally spotted the source of the call. It turned out to be a redstart, and I was able to quickly record it. I’ve only ever seen one of these in books, so I was very happy to spot it.
As I began the walk back, I enjoyed scanning the tree trunks for treecreepers. I also enjoyed feeling the texture of the tree bark, from the fissured old wrinkles of oak, to the smooth, peeling skin of silver birch.