It must have been a really good year for acorns, as Pannage continues into December. Nowadays there are handfuls of pigs out at pannage during the season, a couple of hundred or so in all, though in the 1800's the number would have been in excess of 5000. Imagine what that would have been like. Makes think what the forest must have been like in those days.
Saturday, 16 December 2017
I think this photo perfectly reflects the nature of this afternoons walk. The sky was a succession of open blue expanses and amorphous rugs of grey cloud, as they changed place so the nature of the day and the aspect of the forest changed. Whilst the skies were blue, and the sun shone, there was a vibrancy to the day, though as the clouds obscured the sun, so the colour and vibrancy of the day drained, and the atmosphere of the forest changed. I'm not moaning, mind, it was lovely walking throughout.
Friday, 15 December 2017
No, not a follow on from yesterdays post on that 'sex' graffiti, these bare naked ladies are the forests beech. The queens of the forest, now bereft of their cloak of autumn hues, they stand proud silhouettes again the cool winter skies. The canopies may have fallen though these majestic trees are just as stunning. I've mentioned Bratley Woods beauty before, a never enclosed open deciduous semi ancient/ancient woodland, it has a timeless quality about it. It really is beautiful at any time of the years; it makes you sigh. You'd imagine it always being there, both in the past and into the future, although even the most cursory glance around you will show a stark reality. Once one tree succumbs to the ravages of the elements the woodlands armour is weakened, storms get inside and more trees are slighted, and so on, and so on, until the woodland is no more. This wouldn't be a problem naturally, as as old trees fell, new samplings would take advantage and prosper. The woodland renewed. Though as I've mentioned before, due to overgrazing by increasing numbers of deer and ponies, there are few saplings to fill the gaps. Sadly, this afternoons walk, stunning as it was, saw more recent casualties in Bratley Wood, more ancient trees laid waste. I know nature is ever changing, and ever renewing, but this is different, none of the actions effecting the forests trees are natural (as such), our overstocking and manipulation (too many deer and ponies, with no predators), coupled with climate Change (erratic weather with increased episodes of extremes) is destroying the forest I know. Still, if I thought about that too much when out in the forest, I'd be walking around crying. So I embrace what I see and I'm thankful I get to see it. I hope for change, even though at times I may feel it a forlorn hope. I hope because to loose these ancient woodlands would be too unforgivable a crime.
Thursday, 14 December 2017
Graffiti like this never fails amuse and bemuse, what was the motivation? Was it a desperate request to fulfil an unfulfilled desire or celebratory affirmation of fulfilment, or was it an advertisement for saucy forest pop up shop? We'll never know. I also wonder if the folk that carve the forests graffiti remember doing it, or ever returned to the scene of their whittling.
Wednesday, 13 December 2017
Tuesday, 12 December 2017
Steaming! No, not me, the forest. It was one of those perfect winters days today, it was chilly cold as you walked through a carpet of ice frosted leaves, low in the sky the sun shore brightly with just enough warmth to undo Jack's work where it touched. It was a day of two halves. Steam rose off every surface exposed to the sun, whilst Jack held the shade, and you could certainly feel the difference. Bloody lovely.
Monday, 11 December 2017
Saturday, 9 December 2017
The forest now has a proper wintry feel to it. I saw my first real ice of the season whilst out briefly in the forest today. The water in the puddles through Linford Bottom has been transformed, liquid made solid, all were capped in a good thickness of clear ice. The ice on some puddles has been smashed, with the broken pieces spread and looking like shattered glass. I dig winter when it's cold, I'd rather it be cold than wet.
Friday, 8 December 2017
The stands are bare, the forest is opening up again, with the canopy gone and the bracken dying back, views not seen since springs burgeoning are being revealed. With each season the forest becomes a different place, the same spots take on strikingly different aspects. I've regularly sat here on the bank of Black Water as it passes along the edge of Vinney Ridge Enclosure for more years than I can remember. I've watched this particular gravel bar expand and shrink, almost disappear only to reappear bigger, sometimes bare others capped with grass, yearly being remodelled by the flow. Although perpetually in flux it remains strangely consistent. Over the years I've had little fires on it, cooked on it, brewed up on it, and dozed in the shade of the young trunks to the side of it. I know this place. It's strange how favoured spots develop, something must draw us to them in the first place, then we just keep coming back, each time imbuing them further.
Wednesday, 6 December 2017
Ah, this is where nearly all our Christmas folklore and traditions originate; the midnight flights of a jolly man decked in red and white, who pulled by reindeer through the sky, brings gifts in the depths of winters embrace, all evolved from shamanic pagan practice and story around the psychedelic Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria) mushroom. So, Christmas is effectively based around a trip.
Tuesday, 5 December 2017
Sunday, 3 December 2017
Sitting by the roaring fire, which is taking the chill of the air nicely, bathed in that most wonderful of lights, moonlight, I feel connected. Connected to the movements of the heavens, to the seasons, to nature, to time, and connected through time to those endless ancestral generations of ours, to whom sitting round a fire was natural, a fundamental part of their lives. I love that timelessness, looking up at the same moon, it makes me feel human in a world increasingly plastic and devoid of humanity. Initially, and for the most part, the skies remained clear for the last full Moon of the year, the Cold Moon, a Super Moon, and her majesty was clearly seen, later though, as the evening passed, the clouds gathered to obscure the sky. Winter's certainly here, step away from the fire side and you know it. It's hard to beat nights like this; crisp air, clear skies, glowing moon, ritual, music (Archive, Cary Grace, Stones from the Sky, and John Martyn), fire, and some Calvados to loosen the gears, apples seemed seasonally appropriate.
Friday, 1 December 2017
Forever in flower, Gorse (Ulex) can always be relied upon to bring colour to the forest. The different species of Gorse and their flexible flowering habit ensure they're always in flower somewhere. Common Gorse (Ulex europaeus) is our most widespread species and can flower throughout the year if it wants, though is most profuse in spring, when (if you have iron fingers or are willing to endure continuous pain) the flowers can be collected and turned into a nice dry white flower wine. Lovely.
Thursday, 30 November 2017
Slighted, though for the most part not in war; much of the World War Two archaeology on Goldlingston Heath and the Studland peninsula were just left forlorn, and have fallen to the ravages of time, a different battle in an endless war. A lot of the areas wartime sites were war torn, it's true, though not by an enemy, but by the allies; the Studland peninsula was an off limits secret training and weapons testing area. The beaches saw rolling artillery and rocket barrages from landing craft, the development and testing of 'Hobarts Funnies', and all manner of other preparations for defence and the D-Day invasion, culminating in live fire exercises watched by massed allied commanders. From the invasion fears period of 1940, right through to the end of the war, Studland saw military activity, in fact, it was so heavily used that it wasn't until the 1960's that areas of the beaches and dunes were cleared of ordinance and re-opened to the public. Some years back I had to call the rangers to contact Bomb Disposal after discovering a live wartime rocket protruding at 45 degrees amongst the dunes. The above sites; the remaining section of a line of Anti Tank Obstacles (ATO's) at Bramble Bush Bay and a Type 25 Pillbox beneath Redend Point survived the war years intact, and haven't done too badly since, though the rigours of time are beginning to show, and the cracks are beginning to appear. I first saw these sites in the 70's and have witnessed their decline first hand. Over the years the ATO's have become undercut and are toppling, and as for the Pillbox, I remember when it was still well up the cliff side, rather than in the intertidal. I suppose it's quite a wonder that they endure at all, after all most of the Studland peninsulas wartime sites, as with military buildings throughout the country at the time, were constructed in haste and with diminishing resources. 15 years ago I spent a lot of time recording the wartime sites on Goldlingston Heath and the Studland peninsula, I feel it may be time for a review of them.
It was the Devil what done it! Or at least that's what folklore says. They say the Devil was watching the building of Corfe Castle (in other versions it's Salisbury Cathedral) from the Isle of Wight, and for some reason decided to throw a massive rock at the site; probably something to do with Christians, he's not keen on them. The Devil's rock fell short, and that's how the Agglestone came to be where it is, on a prominent knoll on Godlingston Heath. It used to be anvil shaped, although due to erosion toppled to it's current position some years ago, and it's eroded some since then again. It's a nice spot though, with lovely views, and well worth a visit.
Tuesday, 28 November 2017
Going, going, gone. That's it, all but for a few here and there, the forests stands are bare, their leaves a rich carpet of russet hues on the woodland floor. Now Jack and the Holly King rule unchallenged, for a while anyway, until Sol and the Oak King are in ascendance, and the fight for dominance starts again.
Sunday, 26 November 2017
Saturday, 25 November 2017
Today is a perfect end of autumn day. The air is chill and clean, but for occasional whiffs of wood smoke which drifted though the stands, cementing the sense of autumns end and winters swift approach. It's not too cold, mind, frequently old Sol is free of cloud, and still has enough strength to cast out a warming glow. It's quiet too. Jobs done, and shop closed for the winter break, for the most part the forests critters are resting. Not the squirrels though, they're still darting about. The canopies to are also quiet, with their leaves now grounded, the tree tops sway in silence. It's lovely walking, difficult under foot, though lovely. This part of the forest is wet, even the leaf carpeted woodland is wet under foot, and you'll be walking 3 or 4 inches below what looks like the surface. It makes for a lot of slipping and sliding. The sun is nearing the horizon as I walk back, a dirty looking cloud drops it's load lightly. 'A fox's riddle, and a monkey's dance' is what my mother used to say when the sun shone and it was raining at the same time. I've always remembered it, and wondered about it's meaning. Metaphors for the juxtaposition of conditions, and the mischief it suggests, I'd imagine.
Out of the forest, and into the psychedelic subway. I know some folk deplore graffiti, though I love it. Not tagging, or that shit, that's more to do with ego than art. But art like this which brightens and makes an interesting feature of what's just bland dank concrete, I'm all for. In fact, I must admit to being tempted myself to brighten up one of the forests many subways. Who can it offend? Who's bothered by it? Why? It put a smile on my face. I particularly like the cat, both in style and colouring.
Friday, 24 November 2017
Thursday, 23 November 2017
'The Butt' a substantial Bronze Age bowl barrow on Janesmore Plain in the north of the forest. I've long wondered if the origin of our 'Isle of the Dead' references in story, legend and myth isn't in this type of prehistoric monument. This barrow is after all, when it's surrounding ditch is water filled, an island which houses the dead. Or, maybe the barrow was designed to symbolize just that, and the original story stretches right back into prehistory. Whatever, I know there's a connection. Prehistoric people revered water and watery places, these were magical, life giving places where deities dwelt; they saw mounds as symbolic too, often as portals, or places to move between, of transition. Anyway, this barrow (best in the forest, in my mind) perfectly symbolizes an isle of the dead.
Not a thing you see that often this late in the year, Psilocybin Semilanceata, and growing in a very exposed environment too. Another bit of seasonal weirdness, or an example of changing climate, maybe? I say that as, you always will see anomalous mushrooms, one or two, though I saw quite a few Psilocybin Semilanceata this afternoon and quite widely distributed too. I don't remember seeing these quantities so late in the year before.
I spent 2 hours yesterday, and an hour today wandering to and fro through Ocknell enclosure looking for a certain piece of graffiti, though with not luck. I think the trees are playing a game, the forest has a sense of humour, musical trees or some such. Though I did discover another great piece of graffiti 'H.D U.S.A 1944'. I love graffiti, all those stories you get to imagine; of course you'll never know the truth, still. And, I have a special affection for Second World War graffiti, it's so emotive, and non more so that the American stuff. I think I've discovered about 15 pieces so far around the forest, all from '44 (when dated that is, as several were just initials with US or USA); a period which saw the forest fill with Americans in preparation for D-Day. With so little to go on it's impossible to identify individuals or units, not enough information usually, though by association with other graffiti in the wood I can make some reasonable assumptions about this one. I'm determined to find the other Ocknell graffiti I'm looking for, it's another American one, though this time with greater provenance which will illuminate this piece too.
Wednesday, 22 November 2017
I was walking in Ocknell enclosure looking for a piece of graffiti when I passed this fallen beech, which over the years has become a focus for graffiti, so much so that nearly all the available surfaces have been inscribed. Only a handful of these were done before the tree toppled, the huge majority were done in the years after. As many appear to have been done through the 90's, many thereafter, as well as more recent additions, it would be fair to think that the tree must have come down some time after 1990. Though tucked away behind a bough is 'Sept '72', clearly written since the trunk's been horizontal. This tree has been down for some 45 years, it doesn't look it, and still it produces leaf. 45 years down and still not out, and still an important feature in the forest.
Monday, 20 November 2017
Now, there's something you do see (dead or alive) every day, a Sea Trout (Salmo trutta). They're here every year and in great numbers it's reckoned, though they're not frequently seen, which is quite a wonder at their size and the shallow nature of the streams they frequent. When autumn turns to winter the Sea Trout return to the gravelly shallows towards the heads of the streams in which they were spawn, in order to spawn themselves. This one had entered the forest from the Solent via Lymington and had made it right up into the high reaches of Highland Water. Sadly this good sized 50cm long trout lay, part eaten, on an exposed gravel bed adjacent to a very narrow channel, not that much bigger than the trout, and no doubt were it was caught. It had been recently too, the blood was still wet and it looked very fresh. I may even have disturbed whatever had caught it with my approach. I wonder if it had spawned or not? It's amazing to think these tiny forest headwaters have fish of this size in them, and a good indicator of the forests well-being, maybe.
Sunday, 19 November 2017
The tenacity shown by some of the forests trees in their resolve to endure is astounding. The bulk of this veteran Beech is long gone, only a hollow veneer of bark remains as a trunk. Just one lower bough, which looks like it survived whatever did for the tree, still reaches for canopy. Though still it endures, it still strives for a place. The grasping bough has a myriad of branches trusting from it in all directions, it looks healthy and clearly bore leaf; a few leaves still cling on in denial of winters approach. How long has it stood like this? I don't know. Though so long as for nothing to remain of its debris amongst the litter. Remarkable. The forest is full of wonders.
Friday, 17 November 2017
Another fantastic performance tonight by Magic Bus, who pulled into Glastonbury to stop at the King Arthur, inviting anybody who dug a good groove to step on board. If you don't know Magic Bus (sort that out!), they're purveyors of the finest musical flavours. Magic Bus have picked up the Canterbury scene baton and run with it, a soupçon of West Coast, a smidgeon of folkiness and they've created a wonderful colourfully wrapped stick of complexed psychedelic rock, with rich jazzy prog sensibilities running through it. You hear a Magic Bus song, you know it's Magic Bus; they've developed their own strong sound. And, man, they really are very good. The last few times I've seen them I've felt that the bands delivery had been becoming a touch heavier, and that carried on this evening with all the band members taking the sound a little bit deeper. That's no complaint, mind. There were two sets, both a marvellous mix of tracks from the bands 3 albums, and all of which flowed beautifully. The first set was heavily 'Phillip the Egg' (their current album) orientated, though with a track from each of their previous albums; tracks such as 'Mystical Mountain' from 'Phillip the Egg', a favourite of mine, along with the west coast influenced and delightful 'Back to the Garden' off their first album 'Magic Bus' and 'Three Days' a jazzy Canterbury/Gong-esque treat from 'Transmission from Sogmore's Garden'. As the guy of jazz club says......nice! The second set was previous album based and just as glorious; tracks like the joyful 'Sunflower', or the floaty 'Magic Bus' and the space jazz 'Distant Future' to cite a few. The band played every track magnificently. We know the rhythm section is the foundation on which a good band is built, and Wihll Mellorz does stirling work on bass, whilst Billy Burl's drums were solid, both drove the songs along at a perfect pace. Over this foundation Jay Darlington hung his rich tapestry. I love Jay's keyboard work, it's perfect, he channels a Canterbury-ish sound so warm and immersive. It's wonderful. Jay augmented that sound tonight with some great space rock-esque synth, partly in place of the flute sections. It worked nicely. Whilst Terence Waldstradt let rip on lead guitar, really letting his fingers do the talking with some masterful noodling. I also thought Terence was more present in the harmonies tonight. Throughout, Paul Evans on guitar and vocals, delivered his wonderful whimsical lyrics with the perfect wistfulness they deserved. Paul's a great lyricist and has got a voice made for narrative songs like 'Mystical Mountain' or 'Trail to Canaa'. All together, the band created a sumptuously rich sound with so much depth you just wanted to sink into it; a 'Bus' gig is a joyous affair. After a nice rendition of the Grateful Dead's 'Franklin's Tower' as their final number, the crowd wanted more, and the band were cajoled into playing 'Zeta' (the track they opened with) again. Bloody marvellous! Even with two sets, it wasn't long enough; another first class performance from an ensemble who never let you down. Over the last couple of years I've seen them on several occasions, each a fantastic performance, and they just keep getting better; definitely a band who always to bring their 'A' game. A psychedelic combo, which as their name implies, are magical. Only sad part of the evening was to see flautist/vocalist Viv Goodwin-Darke had got off the bus at a previous stop, Viv's magical jazz flute and lovely harmonizing were a real joy. I don't know if she's got a return ticket? Whatever, I wish her the best and thank her for her part in previous memorable gigs. As for the 'Arthur', our not so local local, it still tops the venues of class and character list. Nice staff, friendly clientèle, great sound and always the choicest bands. I salute all involved in another lovely evening.
The autumn show is muted this year around the forest; some years it goes like that. It's a combination of things, and it's not been helped by the winds of a while back which stripped the crowns of much of their glory. Still, as always, the forest is nevertheless beautiful, and Mark Ash is a particularly beautiful area. Ancient Oaks and Beech dominate open forest, it feels old, around these majestic trees lay the hulks of their fallen comrades returning to the earth, all, adrift in a sea of bracken. Sadly more will be joining the fallen, last year saw an awful lot of damage done by hungry ponies gnawing bark; some trees had their bark removed completely up to a metre high. These 'ringed' trees are very unlikely to survive, and although may remain features for years to come, they'll no longer contribute to the canopy. Sad. Though my walk today was thoroughly uplifting.
Ah, Children in need, another opportunity for society to indulge in cognitive myopia. There are questions we need ask ourselves, starting with, in a first world country, which boasts being the 5th richest in the world, why are there so many children in need? Why do we accept hundreds of thousands children languishing without the treatment or support they need? Why do we accept 3.7 million children living in poverty (1.7 in severe poverty)? Why do we accept hundreds of thousands of young people suffering depression? Doing things to raise money is noble and worthy, though it accepts the need without questioning it, and so perpetuates it. Rather we should be outraged and ashamed, calling for immediate action in the face of the ever increasing number of children in need, and the breadth of those needs. Do you know this is the 37th year of children in need, and every year that need has increased. Of course, the establishment support and endorse Children in need, they'll often appear on it. It's become an institution, they'll say. They love it because it distracts us from the facts that there are children in need by design and policy, or at least through ideology. But of course I'm just being a killjoy, tonight celebrities will do their thing, people will be thoroughly entertained, they'll go, ah, donate some money, job done, and forget. Then ironically, tomorrow many of those people will return to supporting the same old policies which put children in need. Same time next year?