I’ve been thinking a lot recently about “wild” places that are important to me. When I say “wild” I don’t mean windswept Scottish islands, or even snow topped Welsh mountains, I’m talking local. Places I go when I need to clear my head, special places that are important just to me. Never has the importance of a “wild” place hit home so hard as when I came across a tree this week. On it was a simple wooden plaque.
Yesterday I knew that I needed to go for a long walk. Too many days cooped up while it rained over Christmas had left me craving open spaces. I decided on a circular walk from home, taking me through fields, deep ancient footpaths, woods and heathland.
After about an hour of walking I emerged from a dark, silent conifer plantation into a mixed deciduous wood. Suddenly there were birds singing everywhere, squirrels bounding from tree to tree, deer crashing through the undergrowth, even a buzzard mewing overhead. Although the trees were bare the wood felt alive.
The old sweet chestnut tree
Just off the path I spotted a large tree. As you’ve probably realised I’m quite fond of trees and have been trying to log large old trees onto the Ancient Tree Hunt database, so I wandered over to take a proper look.
Getting nearer I realised it was an old Sweet Chestnut but something was very wrong. Great lengths of bark littered the ground and looking up the branches were stag-headed, covered with dead wood fungi, with no signs of twigs from last years growth. Sadly this once majestic tree was dead. A victim, possibly, of bleeding canker.
Fungi growing on the bark-less trunk of the tree
I walked slowly round its trunk, looking up I imagined its branches covered in glossy green leaves. A quiet, tranquil place to sit protected from the heat of a hot summer’s day. Then I saw it. About seven feet up, a small wooden plaque nailed to the trunk – DMW 1910-1992.
The plaque is just visible on the right hand side
Had this tree been so important to DMW that his or her family had wanted to leave a reminder? In my mind I saw a man, walking these woods, seeing this tree in all the seasons. Sitting under its majestic canopy. Maybe bringing a sandwich, maybe a drink, enjoying this tree and the woods, just like I was. Was this his “wild” place?
All around were other Sweet Chestnuts. At least six trees, some small, some quite large. Continuing the cycle of the grand old tree. So I think I’ll return in the spring to see their leaves unfurl, I’ll watch the catkins shimmer in the breeze, and later I’ll watch the leaves change colour and collect some chestnuts, and I’ll thank DMW for letting me share this special place.
Do you have a “wild” place? No need to give away the exact location (you don’t want other people barging in!) I’d love to hear about it. Jane.