When I visit a wood for the first time I look at the following: parking and signage, nature, variety and age of trees, the varied habitats and undergrowth, a note on birds and animals, as well the amount of human interaction or intervention, from fellow visitors, to historic and current land used. A wood on an urban fringe is used in different ways to an isolated wood or a wood that is popular and frequently visited; being southern England it is difficult to escape noise from air-traffic or roads. I also think about the signage and in some instances proximity to a pub! There are some great woodland walks that have a pub attached, that welcome dogs and don’t mind muddy feet.
I’ll note how easy it was to find in the first and to park. In some cases ‘getting there’ is part of the pleasure as there are some steep banked roads think with woodland plants in spring or with dense, overhanging trees in summer through to autumn.
In some cases it has taken me two or more visits to figure out where best to park, either because the entrance is off a residential street or off a road where there is no immediate parking at all.
I use AllTrails once we set off.
I usually have our dog with us so I check if there is any signage about dogs. And depending on ownership, time of year I check any information board regarding keeping to paths, sheep, working in the forest and other matters. Following UK Gov The Country Code appears to be a good idea all round for me.
Then I’m off, intent on following or finding a circuit with no doubling back.
I try to clock the trees, types and age and the flora and fauna depending on the time of year.
I’m not great with birdsong and find it hard enough to spot them to make the connection.
I take pictures constantly, usually relying on my phone but where I want close ups taking a Sony DSLR with a macro lens.
I take notes in ‘notes’.
The experience includes what goes on underfoot – so the state of the ground and the presence of boardwalks or bridges: Wellies cover all wet weather and sturdy shoes the rest of the time.
I’ve been using PictureThis to identify plants on the move.
And then I try to sum it up, at first just a few sentences and pictures shared in AllTrails. I would hope to write it up later more fully with reference to a Management Plan, where there is one; they are readily available for all Woodland Trust Woods.
I love a gill or stream: hereabouts they are often seasonal, shallow and unchallenged – in ancient woodland allowed to flood and dam. I love patches of water too, from small ponds to lakes and reservoirs. These all add to the woodland experience.
As I get to know ‘my’ woods I then return across the seasons, more often in spring as things change rapidly from February through to the end of May – here on the South Downs, with visits to the Low and High Weald.
Whether or when I write it up follows, starting in a Google Doc, uploading to a WordPress blog then adjusting accordingly with keywords, tags and captioned images.