In the heart of winter, it can seem that the long, dark nights are closing in around us. But the forest, seemingly asleep, is already making preparations for the most spectacular of its annual displays. The days are already starting to draw out again as we are blessed with crisp mornings, and soon we will feel the excitement of change in the air. Look closely and you will see that buds of many trees are already formed, holding close their furled treasure; spring is waiting.
The magic of the British woodlands in spring is the wonder of transformation and new life. The leaner times of winter are washed away in a flood of colour, scent and sound. Once again we can rest in coppices bathed in the deep perfume of ramsons; walk beneath the cathedral bowers of the beech, fresh in the succulence of their new leaves; drift slowly to sleep, lulled by the heady perfume of bluebells, and wake to the serenade of birdsong. These are the experiences that form our year and bring renewed vigour to our love of the forest. There is an irrepressible thrill, a deep connection with the life of these very special places, which wakes the soul and sets our pace into the coming year.
As the sun’s weak rays start to muster their strength and bring warmth to our forest home, the plants that surround us respond with generosity. The sap will rise in the birch, giving us a short-lived opportunity to enjoy this invigorating draft. The willow will loosen its bark, allowing us to harvest the fibres needed for cordage at this time of year, and many other plants will provide their fresh, young leaves, ready for salads: a welcome repast which speaks of the freshness of the season.
Of course there will be rain and fresh, icy mornings, but these only serve to highlight the beauty of nature and gladden our hearts all the more when the clear blue skies reappear and the sun breaks through. At these times, we will see the dart of the hare as it sprints through the grass; the still, curled form of the roe kid nestled in the bracken, and the fleeting swoop of birds as they gather materials for their nests.
These are special times, never to be wasted or observed from afar. They are there to be experienced in all of their splendour and glory. Be part of the wakening and go outside! Start now and resolve to make the most of each day by planning your coming adventures. Stride out across the hills and forests; sit quietly and observe; sleep and wake surrounded by all that nature has to offer. We will gladly guide you through these experiences if you choose to come with us, but the most important thing is to go out and learn from what you see and do. This is possible and necessary in all the seasons of the year, but springtime is perhaps the most rewarding.