We’re very fortunate to have 13 acres of Ancient Woodland, owned and managed by our local council, about five minutes’ walk from our house. Beneath the coppiced beech and hornbeam, the bluebells cover the ground like a thick, fragrant fog, while the canopy is alive with birdsong. Though small, it’s seamed with secret paths; often, the whippet and I will wander around in there for half an hour and scarcely see another soul.
Unfortunately, this being the crowded south-east of England, the prevailing wind brings with it the rumble of traffic on the bypass, while overhead, a procession of aeroplanes line up for their final approach to Gatwick. Though not excessive, the noise is constant: the world is only truly silent when a heavy fall of snow shuts down the roads and runways.
So while I love my walks in the woods, I sometimes wish I could take a step back in time and stroll through them in the days before jets and juggernauts.
Sonnet: LOST SOUNDS
This is not the greenwood of old song
And ballad. Robin Hood and Little John
Would know it not; though birds still sing among
The hornbeams, other voices are long gone.
The woodman’s axe, the silver horn that stirred
The hunting-dog and fox in bush and brier;
The clink of harness, thud of hooves, soft word
To horses, tales told round the fire.
The hunter and his quarry need not fear
The foot on root or twig that might betray
Them: in this engined world our duller ear
Is not attuned to all the Wild would say:
The whispers of the world are lost; the roar
Of Progress drowns them. They are heard no more.