Deep in the Autumn Woods
Since I last walked here, it must be three or four years – yet I know this place – nothing has changed – these are my childhood woods. Unlike so many urban landscapes, this place remains unchanged. Walking along the track, a large pile of neatly stacked logs is the only variation. The old trees, the ones I recognise as I walk on this chilly autumn morning, are as solid as ever. Tall and imposing, orange leaves glowing in the dawn light, each a character – diverse as people.
Apart from one dog walker, there is no one about. Waiting for the photographer is most annoying and with this in mind, I have come alone with my camera. So often these past weeks, zipping along in the car, I have admired the changing colours – subtle at first – now in pure technicolour brightest just before they fall - there is no time to waste.
Walking with friends would be delightful, yet without the distraction of conversation, I am more aware of this world. It assailed my senses, the earthy, damp smell, the feel of the mud beneath my boots and sounds – the sounds are the best. The trees rustle in the intermittent breeze and there is birdsong and the rush of the forest stream ahead. Burnt orange bracken and bright fallen leaves in every shade of auburn. Holly glistens with red berries, oak and beech are aflame in the sunlight.
Taking pictures, I am aware that what I capture – even today in this perfect slanting light – is less than half the truth of these woods. To be here in the moment and just smell this place is to be alive.
Standing on the path, I stay still – taking it all in. A squirrel. A robin. The blue flash of a jay’s wing in the undergrowth.
Turning, because I feel that uncanny sensation of being watched, I look the other way. The track is empty. The wind, high in the canopy, sends a flurry of leaves cascading to the ground – then I see the watchers. A pair of deer barely visible at the edge of the wood, two pretty faces turned my way. They seem to decide I am harmless and step daintily out. One stands and looks at me – curious and still, then trots off and others follow in quick delight across the open space to disappear in the undergrowth in a moment. I strain my eyes to catch another glimpse, but they are masters of stealth.
Delighted, I go on through the gate and walk beside the stream I played in as a child. The season’s rain has made it wide and rushing and I stand in the shallow part and feel the cold of the water through my wellington boots and I am a child again.