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.
The following post was written by Woodlore Senior Assistant, Mark Booton:
If you were to ask me what my favourite month is, I’d answer October without hesitation. The reason for this could be one of a number of things: It was the month I met my wife – we always go away for an October half term break – and I also look forward to the Woodlore end of season staff barbecue. These, though, aren’t the real reasons. I love October for one above all others – foraging.
I simply love to forage for wild fungi, and October never lets you down. September can be amazing, but it is a fickle month on the foraging calendar. It blows hot and cold. A late autumn and September can produce little. November can be good, but the enjoyment is always slightly tarnished because all too soon it will be over. October is the month.
Ray’s latest series, Wilderness Walks with Ray Mears, hits the halfway point next week with its third episode, airing at 7:30 PM on Tuesday 28th October, on ITV1. For viewers in Wales, episode 3 will be aired at 12:10 PM on Sunday 2nd November.
In episode three, Ray visits Snowdonia and discovers how, in the rugged landscapes around Britain’s highest mountain, there are forms of wildlife which survive against all the odds, and can only be found in this very special part of Wales.
In one segment, mammal traps are laid overnight to see how much wildlife is roaming on a particularly tightly-cropped hillside, and Ray is surprised at the results:
“Putting those traps down has completely transformed my understanding of this landscape – I would never have thought there could be so many small mammals in ground that’s so heavily grazed; it makes you think again, and that’s the beauty of that kind of research.”