Where tree met ditch, where ditch met field, where field met an old boundary, the oldest living being in Dorset appeared before me.
heart of Wessex- Duncliffe Woods
Entering an ancient woodland is always an exhilarating experience as a quality of extraordinary age presents itself to the senses. An ancient memory triggered and a place of interest around each bend in the path. I cannot help but wonder at why we create so much human entertainment or build such extravagant monuments when here in Nature all need is met.
'The grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere, the dew is never all dried at once, a shower is forever falling; vapour ever rising, Eternal sunrise, eternal sunset, eternal dawn and gloaming, on seas and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls.'
My journey to Wessex this year took me to the ancient woodlands of Duncliffe which is near to the picturesque town of Shaftesbury. The landscape of this area is of gently rolling hills and for me epitomises the character of the English countryside.
As I enter Duncliffe woods I noticed a ground layer dominated by yellow pimpernell and stately fronds of ferns, a welcome change from the invasive bramble and nettle of a typical fertile soil in a secondary woodland. The high trees are of oak, ash and grey willows with sections of coppiced hazel. Down in the valley a roe deer watched me and in damp places hornets, wasps and flies buzzed effortlessly.
As I climbed the top ridge something in the landscape changed. Charms of song birds darted before me and I froze as a cacophony of sweet melodies announced a special place. A riot of plant species, a body of water and a high vantage point combined into a biodiverse frenzy of pure joy. St John’s wort, bird’s foot trefoil, kidney vetch, strawberries and gorse created a mecca for wildlife as tits, robins, blackbirds and nuthatches kept busy at this exquisite feeding station.
I continued into the denser wood with expectation at what I would see next and then where tree met ditch, where ditch met field, where field met an old boundary the oldest living being in Dorset appeared before me.
Much to my delight the boundary of the wood was marked by a grove of small-leaved limes, a sight only ever seen in old woods and not one I see often. Bluish green heart-shaped leaves upon branches attached to towering trunks of slightly ridged bark. A mere memory of the limes that once dominated lowland England yet still enough to make my heart flutter and fill me with excitement. I could almost smell the scents and hear the sounds of woodsman coppicing and working amongst these age-less trees.
After sitting awhile, I continued into the dense copse and as I did so the black shape of a mature raven flew above me uttering a deep croak.
This ancient sound of the skies, towering limes, moss glad oaks and stately ash transported me to a timeless landscape:-
In the heart of Wessex.
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Poetry of flowers
Join me to explore the flora of the British Isles on this blog. My intention is to attempt to capture the unique quality and beauty of each species of flower, tree or shrub. For every species featured I will be growing many more wildflowers to celebrate the joy of their existence, their intrinsic conservation value and bewildering array of uses. For nearly 30 years I have noted, studied and explored wildflowers in the field much to the patience of the walker beside me. To share this passion is a heartfelt plea to respect, preserve and care for all British Wildflowers no matter how common they seem.