We’re in the woods! We’re in the woods!

Vicky Page

I can’t remember exactly, but I think I borrowed that expression from a cartoon I used to watch as a very young child. Every time we went under tree cover of any sort I use to shout it excitedly, making my parents laugh (at least that’s how I choose to remember it!).

I’ve always felt that being amongst deciduous trees is the calmest, most restorative place to be. Where I grew up there was a little wood in a steep gully between two fields, and I have fond memories of walks there with my mum when I was small, and going there for solace when I was older. The primroses, violets and orchids of those steep slopes are still some of my favourite flowers, and I’ll never forget the towering, beautiful beech which was my late mother’s favourite tree in all of existence. I know precisely why I chose to study botany at university, and remember clearly making the decision whilst picturing those childhood walks with my mum.

In these unusual times we can find comfort in the places that make us feel safe, calm, and connect us to our former selves. For me, native woodland is the place to be. I’m grateful to live close enough to some of the best ancient woodland in the country, and that it is managed and cared for by such a dedicated organisation and army of volunteers as we have at Warwickshire Wildlife Trust. I feel privileged to be able to explore these woods with my own children, and as a family we enjoy a trip to the woods on a sunny day as much as almost any other day out, especially if snacks are involved.

I love the way that the woods change with the seasons; the changing colours of the leaves from the moment they burst open in spring to their fall from grace in the autumn, the open views in the winter and bounteous undergrowth in summer. Understanding the processes that lie behind such changes makes them all the more fascinating, and I love to teach my children something new with every visit. While they’re hunting for the perfect stick (every trip) I’ll be stopping and starting, noticing what’s poking out of the leaf litter, spying a new view between the trunks, spotting a photo op before we’re upon it. And even now, after so many years of woodland walks (not to mention those university botanical ID tests), I can still be taken by surprise. I don’t know how I’d never come across it before, but the European Sanicle was completely new to me. Perhaps I’ve always been too busy admiring the bluebells for it to stand out and be noticed. Maybe I’ve been distracted by shouts of “look at this!” or “best stick ever!”. Possibly I’ve been lost in thought whilst passing this unassuming little flower. I guess having transitioned from botanist to photographer I do now look to the distance more than I used to, and less at every little bit of greenery in front of my feet like I used to.

I’ve always felt that the more you know, the more you realise you don’t know. That’s certainly true for me, and having been caught out by the sanicle I’ll certainly be keeping a closer eye on the passing vegetation next time I’m in the woods. Well, at least there won’t be so many bluebells to distract me by then as we move from spring to summer… although I can’t say the same for the best sticks ever.