The wood is brightest in the darkest time of year.

I went for a walk in my lunch break, to try and decide if it is winter yet. The rains of October are draining here, leaving clodgy paths and ditches running thick with the flow of leaves. Elsewhere it floods.

November nights start early, chivvying and harrying us as we finish the working day. I have found myself planning festive food: syrupy mince pies with a shock of icing sugar, crispy roast potatoes that strive to be better even than my mums, a poachers dish of partridge, baked pears, dark fruity cake.

But I digress, there is time yet; the feasting won’t start till winter has its cold feet firmly under the table.

It won’t be long however, the temperatures are already dropping. The guest appearance of my woolly hat has become a permanent feature and I’ve started adding an extra layer under my jumper. When you work outside (in my case in horticulture), days become a continuous conversation with the weather. Today is colder than yesterday. A damp cold; the full moon last night untroubled by winds, allowed the mist to layer, settle as frost. The freeze didn’t quite penetrate the middle of the woods however, proving there’s still enough leaf canopy to provide shelter.

The redwings will be pleased about that. And about the berry harvest that laden the hollies. They have arrived now, I’ve seen them passing over head in seeping flocks, contact calls sounding thin as ice glass.

Tits are here too in their elastic groups, calling and moving incessantly, making steady progress through the wood. A wing tip here, a springy twig there, perhaps an insect morsel. Leaves, tawny or golden, swirl softly to the ground in their wake. Most of the leaves make it to the woodland floor, but some are halted a few feet from their final resting place, caught on barbed bramble stems, bent bracken fronds, the withered skeleton cage of undergrowth. This is where the wren creeps, hops and scuttles, throwing her voice at the sun and shadows.

There is too much movement in the woods yet, it will grow quieter and more still when winter grips tight. It’s ironic that it is at the darker time of the year, the sun can penetrate furthest into the heart of this place. Now it angles through the window of beech leaves, illuminating not only the chlorophyll-drained cells, but brightening my heart also.

5 Replies to “The wood is brightest in the darkest time of year.”

  1. Beautiful words, stunning sentences that bring the whole picture to life….lamost as if I was walking alongside you. You must write a book, and ensure your legacy is maintained regarding this area of England.


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