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The Tuesday tree: the forest floor

February 22, 2011

Here’s my 15 minutes of fame in the blogosphere!

The Freshly Pressed badge was designed by the super-talented Holley Maher, who kindly gave permission for me to use it.

One of the most entrancing things about woodland is that it is such an extraordinarily rich environment. While it might seem natural, walking under tall trees, to look up, there is just as much to be seen under your feet. Every step brings fresh details to notice. Having served my time of tramping along grey city streets, all concrete, grime and chewing gum, I never fail to be aware of the sensory pleasure of walking in the woods. Climb up this crumbling wall with me, into this favourite patch of mixed woodland, and see what I mean.

Just up here…

This is a woodland that was planted as a place of leisure and enjoyment by a laird of the castle perhaps a hundred and sixty years ago. It contains native and long-established British trees such as oak and beech, pine and sweet chestnut, holly and yew; but it is, strictly speaking, more of a garden than a wild forest, in that it is an ‘engineered’ landscape. Thus it has tumble-down paths running through it, half-buried under the leaf litter; while some of the trees within it are imports such as Douglas fir and North American oaks. Though it looks untended now, we continue to cut back the rampant rhododendrons and to fill in the gaps with saplings as trees fall victim to old age or gales. I love its semi-wild state. Rabbits and hedgehogs find shelter amongst the tree-roots here; red and grey squirrels scuttle up the trunks; roe deer melt away like ghosts among the shadows or bound through the trees and away across the far fields. Once we saw a pole-cat here. On summer days, we hear the drumming of a greater spotted woodpecker in these woods, while on winter nights the quavering hoots of brown owls give dimension to the dark.

At this time of year, the woods are rather stark and open with all the deciduous leaves gone from the branches. Or almost all, I should say: here and there, a stiff brown oak or beech leaf clings on through the worst of winter.

Where have the others gone? Well, countless numbers of leaves are still underfoot, making a carpet as thick and springy in places as summer heather.

Elsewhere in the wood, where the leaf litter is a little sparser, there are other things to be spotted at one’s feet. Here, amongst the oak leaves, are the sea-urchin-like spiny balls of sweet chestnuts. The tiny tear-drop shaped nuts scattered near them, however, are beech nuts, I think. The kernels of the chestnuts are a little bigger, though they do not grow big enough here for humans to eat. With more beechnuts and chestnuts than they can eat, no wonder the squirrels are busy here in the autumn.

There are at least two kinds of oak growing in this wood. The pleasing scalloped outline of leaves of the native oak, Quercus robur, is instantly recognisable. But here amongst those is a larger, spikier leaf: an oak, I’m sure, but not a native. I don’t know – there is no-one now on the estate whom I could ask – but I think this is the leaf of the North American Nuttall oak (Quercus nutallii). If anyone knows better, I’d love to be told.

In another step, you can find more shapes, equally distinctive. Here is a piece of lichen, like a branch of pale coral.

In that picture, you can also see an empty beech husk (top), a cone from a Douglas fir with its characteristic flame-like wisps, a tiny spark of green moss and, oh look, rabbit poo! (bottom left)

And here is more evidence of non-human inhabitants: a pheasant feather lying amongst the other detritus of the woods.

There is always something new to notice, on every walk. I hope you have enjoyed your brief foray with me – rabbit droppings and all – but I must leave you now. It’s high time I took my patiently waiting dogs out – for a walk in the woods.

For some views of this wood in May, see An evening walk and In the enchanted wood.

96 Comments leave one →
  1. Deb permalink
    February 22, 2011 2:36 pm

    What a special place – thank you for sharing. I feel as though I’ve been along for a walk with you!

  2. February 22, 2011 2:39 pm

    I love this post and your pictures. I too feel like I could have been there with you hearing you describe all this to me. I am also in awe that you get Red Squirrels! They are amazing and so beautiful. Lucky you. Looking forward already to more Tuesday trees.

    • dancingbeastie permalink
      February 22, 2011 3:39 pm

      Deb and WNC, thank you. That is what I was hoping to evoke for you. The red squirrels are a delight, though there are fewer every year as the greys slowly establish themselves in this area. I am hoping that there is a rich enough habitat for them to continue to flourish alongside each other – we’ll see. The sight of a red squirrel always stops me in my tracks, I must say.

      • February 22, 2011 7:02 pm

        You should all come to Europe! Red squirrels everywhere 🙂 But I guess after a while you will all miss the familiar sight of the big grey american version.

        Very nice pictures indeed. Have a great day!

  3. maryz permalink
    February 22, 2011 3:16 pm

    What lovely photos – and your poetry to go along with them. Thanks for the lovely start to my day.

    • dancingbeastie permalink
      February 22, 2011 3:42 pm

      Bless you, Mary, I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  4. February 22, 2011 3:22 pm

    This post reminds me of the Chronicles of Narnia 🙂

    • dancingbeastie permalink
      February 22, 2011 3:44 pm

      Hi Lakia, thank you for visiting. I know what you mean – sometimes I swear these trees can talk, and it would hardly surprise me to see a wee faun in a scarf, hurrying along in the distance…

  5. February 22, 2011 3:31 pm

    How enchanting. Your photos are magnificent and you’ve a talent for writing too. Thanks so much for sharing your journey with us and thanks for the warm smile this post gave my heart. 🙂

    • dancingbeastie permalink
      February 22, 2011 3:59 pm

      Thank you very much, I’m really glad it made your heart smile! That’s a happy thought.

  6. Roda permalink
    February 22, 2011 3:33 pm

    Your post brings to mind snatches of poetry learn in school…..the woods are lovely dark and deep….but I have promises to keep…and miles to go before I sleep.
    Then ….the falling leaves drift by my window………

    • dancingbeastie permalink
      February 22, 2011 4:01 pm

      Oh yes, Robert Frost – a beautiful poem. And a beautiful song that you have put into my head as well! Thank you for visiting.

  7. February 22, 2011 3:40 pm

    Well, any post featuring rabbit poop is ok in my book! 😉

    Stunning photos — thank you for sharing!

    • dancingbeastie permalink
      February 22, 2011 4:02 pm

      I’m glad of that! 🙂
      Thanks for stopping by.

  8. February 22, 2011 3:52 pm

    A delightful post full of whimsy and nostalgia and fabulous pics – congrats on FP 🙂

    • dancingbeastie permalink
      February 22, 2011 4:03 pm

      Thank you very much. I’m so glad you told me about FP – I was wondering what was going on! Lucky me.

  9. Gink Go Revista Ambiental permalink
    February 22, 2011 4:03 pm

    love the info and pics,

  10. February 22, 2011 4:34 pm

    Concrete jungles make my head spin, what’s why I’ve opted for the mountains. Fantastic photos. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed.

    • dancingbeastie permalink
      February 22, 2011 5:13 pm

      Thank you, Gink Go and Laavventura. Mountains sound good to me too!

  11. February 22, 2011 4:54 pm

    I’ve just spent my tea break reading through your lovely blog (found via Vintage Squirrel). Your photos and words speak about my favourite things! I am lucky to be able to walk my dog in the forest most days and often marvel at the details to be found if you just stop to look.

    • dancingbeastie permalink
      February 22, 2011 5:15 pm

      Hi Lesley, I’m so glad you found DB. Looking at your own blog, I can see we have a lot of interests in common – I will back to visit yours again!

  12. February 22, 2011 4:55 pm

    wild life nature photos are always nice to look at. the fact that the tree is so close to the concrete is crazy. looks nice, great post

  13. Margaret Lambert permalink
    February 22, 2011 4:59 pm

    I am imagining the sort of person who enjoys collecting seeds for something they will never enjoy in it’s maturity…there is faith in that, planting trees as a gift to the future.

    • dancingbeastie permalink
      February 22, 2011 5:17 pm

      It’s an act of hope, isn’t it. A good thing to do. Looking at the landscape around the castle, we have daily reminders to be grateful for past generations who took the long-term view – and it reminds us to do likewise.

  14. February 22, 2011 4:59 pm

    What a great post…so glad you were freshly pressed so that I had a chance to see your wonderful pictures!

  15. February 22, 2011 5:00 pm

    Beautiful photos. I love woods and forests!

  16. February 22, 2011 5:04 pm

    Beautiful photos! I love trees!

    • dancingbeastie permalink
      February 22, 2011 5:19 pm

      Thank you Melissa, loveoutloud and Annie. I’m really glad to be able to share it with you.

  17. February 22, 2011 5:07 pm

    Hello dancing beastie,

    We have had a look at your oak leaf and while it does look similar to a North American Nuttall (Quercus nutallii), we think it may be a Pin Oak (Quercus palustris)? The pointed lobes at the bottom are more consistent with this species, whereas Quercus nutallii appears to have a longer, smoother taper onto the leaf stem.. What do you think?

    • dancingbeastie permalink
      February 22, 2011 5:28 pm

      Thank you very much for your comments. Pin oak was my other thought, I must say, but I’m really not sure. I haven’t been able to work out which of the bare trees this leaf came from: clearly, I need to go and have a better look for it and for some more leaves, so that I can have more of a chance of correct identification. Your input is greatly appreciated meanwhile!

  18. albeindc permalink
    February 22, 2011 5:13 pm

    forests are awesome. nuff said.

    • dancingbeastie permalink
      February 22, 2011 7:08 pm

      hear hear! 🙂

  19. February 22, 2011 5:24 pm

    Great photos. I love all of the fallen leaves. That is was is great about the fall, and even after all of the leaves fall. I tend to always find myself going out of my way to step on the fallen leaf to hear the crunch beneath my feet.

    • dancingbeastie permalink
      February 22, 2011 7:09 pm

      Oh, me too! Thanks for visiting.

  20. February 22, 2011 6:22 pm

    I enjoyed the photos, and could nearly smell the fallen leaves. Delicious post, thank you! MJ

    • dancingbeastie permalink
      February 22, 2011 7:12 pm

      My pleasure, thank you for visiting.

  21. February 22, 2011 6:34 pm

    This post was fun to read and magical. Love the pictures too. I felt like I was there with the author walking along the path. Thankyou for sharing.

    • dancingbeastie permalink
      February 22, 2011 7:13 pm

      Thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  22. February 22, 2011 6:34 pm

    These are so wonderful. I can just imagine all types of little fairies and woodland creatures scampering about through the maze of leaves and twigs and cones. You just took me on a walk through a magical place and opened my eyes and my imagination. Thank you!

    • dancingbeastie permalink
      February 22, 2011 7:14 pm

      Well, there are certainly plenty of little creatures scampering about here. I’ve yet to see a fairy – but it wouldn’t surprise me in this setting! Thank you for visiting.

  23. edremsrola permalink
    February 22, 2011 6:46 pm

    Wonderful post – thanks for the adventure.

    • dancingbeastie permalink
      February 22, 2011 7:14 pm

      My pleasure, thank you for stopping by.

  24. Carmen permalink
    February 22, 2011 7:40 pm

    Qe hermosooo

  25. February 22, 2011 8:26 pm

    I would love to take my dog for a walk there! He would love rambling around the beautiful area- as so would I!!

    • dancingbeastie permalink
      February 22, 2011 10:15 pm

      Ah well, at least I can share the pictures with you!

  26. February 22, 2011 8:55 pm

    congrats on being freshly pressed.
    what a refreshing read and nice photos too. You truly are blessed to live in this magical place. I am so jealous!

    • dancingbeastie permalink
      February 22, 2011 10:44 pm

      Thank you. We are indeed very blessed, and we don’t forget it. It’s nice to be able to share some pictures.

  27. mizunogirl permalink
    February 22, 2011 9:54 pm

    Really Love your Photos, and you describe exactly why I like to get out and walk in the “Florida Hammock” (not what hangs on the beach, but an actual Florida environment…) Every square inch is really just full of small discoveries!!
    thanks for sharing yours!!!

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      February 22, 2011 10:49 pm

      Thank you so much, and thanks for visiting.

  28. February 22, 2011 9:57 pm

    A lovely post. Walking through the Australian bush in Autumn and Spring gives me much pleasure; in Autumn the crunch under foot and Spring, the emergence of wildflowers.

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      February 22, 2011 10:54 pm

      Thanks, Alaine. Your corner of the world looks so beautiful too: it’s wonderful to be able to drop in other lives and landscapes through the blogosphere.

  29. February 22, 2011 9:59 pm

    Even though I live in the mountains, bordered by national forest and a designated wilderness, and surrounded by trees, I still plant them and am considered by my husband to be a certified tree-aholic. So I loved this walk with you. I, too, am enchanted by the things underfoot, like twin flowers, western star flowers, and evergeen violets that go unnoticed by most. It’s a reason to slow down when in the woods and spend time among the trees. Thanks for sharing.

    • dancingbeastie permalink
      February 22, 2011 11:02 pm

      Your home sounds a magical place too, starred with flowers that are strange to me. It is a pleasure to know that my post has struck a chord. (And apropos of nothing, I too appreciate the finer points of Sean Bean!) Thank you for taking the time to visit and comment.

  30. ckassociates permalink
    February 22, 2011 10:18 pm

    Thank you for sharing such beautiful pictures and story. I love trees when they’re in bloom and also when they shed their leaves. The beauty of the leaves with the many vibrant colors is always breath taking. The different shapes of trees always amazes me.

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      February 22, 2011 11:17 pm

      My pleasure; thank you. I do appreciate big skies and open landscapes – but you just can’t beat trees for soothing the soul. As you say, there is always something new to see.

  31. February 22, 2011 10:33 pm

    I really love the first picture in this post. Very pretty.

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      February 22, 2011 11:19 pm

      Thank you, I’m glad you liked it.

  32. February 22, 2011 11:15 pm

    Another thought: I live in a temperate rainforest meaning it rains all the time (except today when it’s snowing). That moisture creates microclimates within the trees themselves. In the old growth trees you can find tiny civilizations in the branches, mini wetlands, even bonzai’s where seedlings have found a pocket of nutrients. The grand scheme views are…grand, but I love the secret gardens.

    • dancingbeastie permalink
      February 22, 2011 11:37 pm

      Oh, I quite agree. We find them sometimes in the massive old yew trees that grow here. Some of them have saplings of other species growing out of crevices. One has quite a well-grown holly tree growing out of a cleft in the branches! It is magical.

  33. February 22, 2011 11:28 pm

    Well written Write-up. Glad i am able yo locate a site with some knowledge plus a great writing style.
    You keep publishing and i will continue to Keep browsing

    Thanks Again

    • dancingbeastie permalink
      February 22, 2011 11:38 pm

      Thank you for your comments, and for dropping by.

  34. February 23, 2011 12:00 am

    Beautiful place.

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      February 23, 2011 5:03 pm

      It is indeed…

  35. February 23, 2011 12:06 am

    I feel like I’ve had a walk vicariously through you. The winter is my favorite time to go walking through the woods. Thank you for the brief reprieve from my snow covered neighborhood.

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      February 23, 2011 5:04 pm

      Oh good, that’s what I was aiming for! I love walking in the woods at all times of year – I’m glad you enjoyed coming ‘with’ me.

  36. February 23, 2011 2:48 am

    A very good article. I think we should encourage people to love trees as they absorb carbon, as well home and food supplies to many plants and animal species.

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      February 23, 2011 5:07 pm

      Thank you. I entirely agree with you: we could not manage without our forests.

  37. February 23, 2011 4:52 am

    You have found an oasis and captured it beautifully for all the world to enjoy. Thank you. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      February 23, 2011 5:08 pm

      I’m just very lucky – but thank you!

  38. February 23, 2011 4:57 am

    wow! this is my definition of a blog. love it so much, i wish one day i can walk with a camera to those places… 🙂 thanks for sharing.

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      February 23, 2011 5:09 pm

      What a lovely comment! I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  39. February 23, 2011 5:03 am

    Thank you for loving the life under foot, so textural and intimate.

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      February 23, 2011 5:11 pm

      As a gardener, you must appreciate it even more than most. Nature is as beautiful in microcosm as in macrocosm, isn’t it.

  40. February 23, 2011 5:55 am

    thank you for that pictures i think my problems are gone……………
    thank you very much………good luck……………….

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      February 23, 2011 5:12 pm

      My pleasure, and I’m glad the pictures cheered you up!

  41. February 23, 2011 7:31 am

    gud description felt i was present at tht place 🙂

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      February 23, 2011 5:13 pm

      Thanks. I’m glad it worked 😉

  42. February 23, 2011 1:16 pm

    lovely photos. Woods seem universal. looks like an English Wood.

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      February 23, 2011 5:14 pm

      I suppose a Scottish wood is not much different from an English one in essence. This is full of bluebells in May, like so many wonderful English woodlands. Thank you for visiting.

  43. February 23, 2011 2:15 pm

    Beautiful photos, thanks for sharing. We, too, like to take our dog for a walk in our local woods, a beautiful nature reserve just 2 minutes away from our house. Our forest looks a lot like yours at the minute, but you can feel it in the air that it’s getting ready for the spring. There are some signs underfoot, too, like the little bluebells breaking through from under the dead leaves. If you’d like to compare notes, there are some photos of our forest walk two weeks ago posted on my blog.

    Congratulations on being FP!


    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      February 23, 2011 5:19 pm

      Goodness, it’ll be three months before our bluebells are in flower! We have just got the snowdrops in the past week, and there are little green nubs of daffodils just starting to peek through here and there. And the snow is melting at last, even from the shadowed places. It’s a good feeling, isn’t it?
      Thank you for your kind comments.

  44. February 23, 2011 3:04 pm

    Amazing pictures u have there 🙂

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      February 23, 2011 5:20 pm

      Thank you very much!

  45. Sanjiv Khamgaonkar permalink
    February 23, 2011 3:43 pm

    I used to take pictures of the forest floor as a kid … brought back happy memories of lush green moss slowly creeping up on rocks, the profusion of plant life, and, carefree days doing nothing in particular … nice!

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      February 23, 2011 5:21 pm

      It sounds delicious. I am happy to have taken you on a nice daydream! Thank you for visiting.

  46. February 24, 2011 2:25 am

    Wow, I loved your blog. I love Nature visual Arts. Cogradulations!

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      February 24, 2011 4:07 pm

      That’s great to hear. Thank you very much!

  47. February 28, 2011 4:56 am

    Kudos for the great piece of writing. I am glad I have taken the time to read this.

  48. September 28, 2012 7:06 pm

    Reblogged this on Tigrita Bunn Posts.


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