Saturday, 29 September 2012

Not all was lost

Drove around the countryside, looking for a wood. As time ticked by, I got increasingly stressed. Didn't help.

I wasn't as shouty as that time I went looking for Salcey Forest.

Then, I was careering around the random lanes of Gayhurst, the car screeching on two wheels as we spun round hairpin bends, and I'm shouting to the children Look out for trees! They unhelpfully sent me hurtling towards neat rows of firs standing to attention in perfect country gardens - manicured trees, pruned, cleaned and tidied up trees, trees who hold their arms prettily by their sides, compliant with complementary herbaceous borders and sweet alpine flora. I started yelling then, too. I wanted messy trees, blown down trees, spindly trees and every type of tree, the disaffected, grumpy, awkward trees, the little bastard trees who wander about, muttering, cursing, looking for trouble. Look out then for the peace-keeper trees who muscle in when the night turns ugly, when they square up to each other and rustle their branches, and the rebels say, You looking at my leaves?

The children fell silent. I may have become slightly mad. But I was driven by the hour and growing desperate. And today it's the same. The small mammal group? Due to assemble in the wood at 10 o'clock? Look! It's 11 o'clock! Surely they'll already have set the traps, trapped mini mouse, found her, examined her tiny fearful eyes, soft brown fur, thin trembling tail, all gone aahh! then let her scamper back to Mr Mouse, and we'll have missed it all!

Yes, it's nearly as bad as that time in Salcey Forest when the group assembled and went off without us to look for the elephant in the lake. We missed that, too.

Well, eventually we do find the wood. Late. It is just as I said it would be, there on the horizon, encircled around by spreads of neatly cropped fields, rows of fences and close shorn grass clipped by quiet horses. Access is hard. That single track road I missed and missed as we drove by? It is a hidden, private wood. We slip inside with a strand of public access. But bursting entanglement, this land is densely filled. Inside, messy, spilling, disordered, a frontier space for any woodsmen to relearn their crafts while they tangle with mad birch, vengeful elder, the blackthorn sprites and whipping hazel to catch them unawares. It's a perfect space. For light to dapple, mud to congeal, growth to sprout, oak to soak, ash to splash, and for kids to peer, looking quietly for mini mouse.

We missed the group. Of course we did. But for an hour or more, we caught the wood.

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