Who needs a sunny day when there are springtime woods to explore? Find adventure on your doorstep. A feast for the senses awaits if you take time to stop, look and listen.
Words: Lisa Sykes
Wake up and smell the wild garlic before you even see the white ramson flowers along the stream’s bank, the damp earth so pungent you can almost taste it.
Bluebells carpet the ground, while cow parsley and buttercups dance in the meadow along the woodland edge, where you might catch the whiff of a fox from the night before or a badger sett; a mound of fresh soil burrowed from underground.
A few wildflowers plucked from the side of the path will bring the scent of the woods back home. Pick judiciously, only where there are plenty, and leave the roots to shoot again next year.
“There’s a distinct difference between the smell of open country and woodland and it can be used to find your way out of woods if you pick it up on the breeze”
Tristan Gooley, natural navigator
Take a trip during an April shower and hear the squelch and suck of wellies in gloopy mud, splash through a puddle, or linger on a bridge over a babbling brook. Splashing, sploshing and messing about in rivers are what wellies were made for. Make sure you give yours a run for their money
Hush up a little and you’ll notice birdsong all around, maybe a woodpecker at work. If the wind picks up, the branches creak and groan in an arboreal conversation that makes you believe in magical creatures.
Big kid or little kid, climb a tree and feel the breeze whistle through the branches around you.
“At some level you are not simply an observer of the wood, but are being observed by it. Just as in the old fairy tales, the woods have eyes.”
Paul Kingsnorth, in Arboreal: a Collection of New Woodland Writing (Little Toller)
Watch the way the come-and-go sun dapples the new canopy, all lime-green leaves in their spring best. If you dig around a little, who knows what you’ll find; sticks to make a den… or an actual den? Is it the home of a rabbit or badger? Look down and deer tracks scatter through deep mud, look up and there’s a bird’s nest high and safe, a hole in the trunk is home to a nuthatch.
Bring treats from home, because even a simple slab of cake and a warm cuppa from a Thermos taste like manna from heaven down in the woods. Pause a while and gather round for a flask of hot tea, and share a fruit cake on a fallen log. Everything tastes better outdoors.
“There were neat deer slots, bird prints like arrowheads pointing the way and the pads of rabbits. To all these marks I added my own.”
Robert MacFarlane in The Old Ways: a Journey on Foot (Penguin)
A rainy walk with friends or family feels somehow enlivening, as if you’re defying the weather, having fun and making memories… even when water gets in your wellies.
Feel the rain on your skin, see it drip through a hazel leaf funnel onto the forest floor. Touch the bark of a gnarled, rough oak or a smooth, grey beech trunk made dark by running water. Run your fingers over a velvety bracket fungus. As the sun comes out from behind a cloud, find a clearing and hold your face to the sky.
A free dose of Vitamin D, courtesy of spring.
“There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing”
Lake District fellwalking legend Alfred Wainwright
(originally from a Norwegian adage)