A Woodlands Trust Wood
This is only my second trip out to a specific Woodlands Trust wood. I knew there would be a challenge because the Woodland Trust Guide for East Sussex has No.1 Beechland Mill Wood signposted as one where ‘local parking is difficult’. Actually, I had a problem finding it because though there are roads equidistant in a large rectangle with the wood in the middle, the wood itself is across a field or two, via paths or sports fields.
Advised not to rely overly on a SatNav I nonetheless had Waze and Google Maps send me back and forth around the top, around the south then to the east. Eventually I got out and walked up a lane only to find myself in a private driveway – perhaps there was a path down one side of one of the houses. My journey was further curtailed by roadworks.
Eventually, across football fields I should have recognised from when my son was competing in one of these leagues I make it along the side of a house, across a rugby field, over a meadow and into the woods. You know it is a Woodland Trust wood as soon as you come across a stream crossed by a well-made footbridge; depending on where there’s signage you will know too from dedications on the occasional park bench or other marker.
I pause, I listen. I recorded 30 seconds of soundscape. I take in a deep breath through my nose. I look at the trees, gauge their age, look at the amount of undergrowth and consider the amount of intervention – are trees felled by the weather left or cleared?
A popular dog walk from Newick I meet three couples and two people on their own – all with a dog (usually one, sometimes two). I greet them and talk with one.
A wood like this always takes me back to Mowden Hall School, Northumberland and the 35 acres of woods some 105 or more boys had to roam in every weekend. We dug holes, made ‘trenches’, had dones, climbed trees, had mock battles with staves, bow and arrows and ‘handgrenades’ (bracken rhizome) and built dens. The fancy den had plastic sacking in the roof and on the floor with a ‘barbed wire’ defensive fence made from dead bramble stems.