Dear Readers, by the time you read this it will be Christmas Day, so for those of you celebrating I hope you have a peaceful time, especially as for many people it won’t be the kind of Christmas that you were hoping for. I am hoping that 2021 will be a lot less ‘interesting’ than 2020 was.
The temperature dropped overnight to the high 30’s (which is coldish for us – don’t laugh, people in Scotland and Canada and other chilly parts of the world). But it was sunny and DRY hallelujah. We decided to go for a quick mooch around Coldfall Wood, which has saved the sanity of many people this year, including me. Every time I go I notice something new, and I think that lockdown has heightened my appreciation for the gradual changes of nature. How about you?
So, on the way I noticed this little posse of starlings. For once they were eerily silent – normally they’re whistling and clicking and generally making a racket. From the amount of suet that they eat every day I’d say that the inhabitants of East Finchley are single-handedly preventing them from migrating. Who’d want to fly all the way to Africa when there’s an all-you-can-eat buffet in the County Roads?
I noticed how the holly trees often spring up when a tree has fallen or been pruned – that little bit of light seems to help them to lurch into action. I wonder what seedlings are stirring under the fallen leaves even now?
The cyclamen is doing very well behind its stockade of branches. How sweet that someone has cared enough to try to protect it. I think that it might need a bit more room next year though.
And here is another, more advanced holly tree growing up in a gap.
And here’s some ivy, to complete the picture.
I’ve mentioned the mud before, so here’s a photo to give you an idea of how we’re doing (though it’s much better in the wood than it is on the field – at least in the wood there are lots of trees to drink up the excess water, though they are less thirsty without their leaves).
Some little hoodlum has been graffiti-ing the trees with this time-honoured fertility symbol, though why the testicles appear to have little faces is anybody’s guess.
Does anybody see the face of the elderly man in the trunk of this tree? I suspect he’s annoyed about the phallic symbol.
The little streams that run through the wood are making their way down to the wettest area of the wood. This year, so far, it hasn’t risen too far.
The crows are bathing in the stream, and turning over the leaves to find morsels to eat.
Squirrels seem to be chasing one another around and one was investigating the hole in a hollow tree. They don’t normally nest in holes, so I wonder if it was caching food, or looking for something to eat? They are very inquisitive and adaptable animals, so nothing would surprise me.
And when I look at the hornbeams in the wood now I am reminded of David Bevan’s talk about the ancient woodland of North London, in which he speculated that although the oak trees are probably several hundred years old, the hornbeams, cut back year after year for firewood, could easily be much older. When you see a hornbeam ‘stool’ like this one, you get the idea of how long the original tree could have been around, throwing up new stems every year only for them to be regularly cut back.
And in some places in the wood which have been coppiced, allowing the light to get to the forest floor, young hornbeams are growing up as single-stemmed trees.
And so that was our walk for the day, and we headed back so that I could write the blog. Later we’ll be watching the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols from Kings College on the television, filmed under social distancing rules and without a congregation. Will I manage to stay dry-eyed as those first notes of ‘Once in Royal David’s City’ sung by the boy soloist soar through the church? I wouldn’t bet on it.