I’m all for trying something new. Seeing and doing something different is not only fun but, as the saying goes, stretches the mind, makes us view people and places in a different light and challenges us and our opinions. But as with most things businesses and the media latch on to this and now we’re bombarded with the notion that life is a series of experiences to cross off a list. There was a time in the pre-economic doom years when travel programmes showed us the places we should be going to if we wanted somewhere interesting to show off about at a dinner party. There was the ever-increasing quest by the producers of said programmes to find more and more extravagant holidays or far-flung destinations. If you hadn’t yak herded in Mongolia or eaten mongoose with some impossibly remote tribe with an unpronounceable name then you hadn’t lived. Maybe these programmes had run their course or perhaps it was increasingly hard to justify holidays which cost more than a new car once recession had started to bite.
Then that dreadful word ‘staycation’ appeared everywhere, but I can forgive all those who used it, if it made people look at what was on their own doorstep in a different way. I have a friend who has been to every continent including Antarctica but has never visited Cornwall. *incredulous look at computer screen* I must admit to being rather jealous of her seeing penguins in their true habitat and not just in a rather dubious looking pool construction at a zoo but you don’t have to spend lots of money or travel long distances to come across the new and interesting.
This weekend we walked a stretch of Offa’s Dyke that we know well. One of our favourite places, the paths take us through ancient woodland clinging to the side of the Wye Valley. On one hand there is a comfortable feeling of familiarity, knowing the terrain, the sections that will be muddy because of the underground spring or the steep part that we need to descend to return to the car. On the other is the feeling of discovery whenever we visit. It might well be the same walk, through the same trees but it’s always different.
Seeing how the seasons and the weather affect the woods is the most noticeable difference. Last year we visited in mid- March,and in the warmth of the early spring bluebells had created a spectacular show and were joined by wild garlic and wood anemones. These bluebells were out about a month earlier than the previous year but this time around, unsurprisingly, there were none to be seen. The foliage was there but the first flowers may well not appear until May. The buds of the first wood anemones had appeared but only a few had opened; they, like us craving some sunshine. A carpet of wild garlic had formed though and we picked a few leaves to take home to make a pesto.
The winter storms had taken their toll. A huge tree had split with two sections now lying at right angles to the trunk. As these had fallen they had taken out other trees in their path. It looked like a scene of destruction but as the wood starts to rot it will become the perfect home to so many creatures.
Wellyman spotted these fascinating fungi which we’d never seen before. Whilst I was waffling on about them looking like those men, often with no teeth, who take part in the gurning competition in Cumbria he was off looking for a stick to poke one that had fallen on to the ground. Apparently he was looking to see if the inside was full of rings rather like the trunk of a tree and thought they were called King Alfred’s cakes. The fungus did have the said rings running through its inside and checking when we got home it turns out Wellyman’s fungi identification skills, on this occasion, were correct. Their name derives from the fact that the black varieties look burnt just like the cakes King Alfred is said to have overcooked. Apparently they can be used as kindling for those who like the idea of bushcraft.
Of course, even in such a beautiful spot as this there are always some who just don’t seem to appreciate what’s there. I really dislike seeing trees that have been vandalised. On this occasion it was initials and dates carved into the trunk of a tree. Some were obviously more recent than others as the bark hadn’t had a chance to fully heal. Banging nails into a tree in order to hang up a poster annoys me too. I know the tree doesn’t feel pain but it’s the lack of respect that frustrates me. Trees really are incredible and deserve more than being treated as a convenient spot to advertise some nightclub, a missing pet or as a place for RR to declare their ‘love’ for LT.