Down off Sheffield Pike, out of the cloud and onto the golden October slope where Mossdale Beck rises and flows down through the wood into Ullswater. A dead tree branch like antlers reminds us of stags bellowing in the fells across the lake where the deer rut is on. We look back at the silhouette of crags on Black Crag and Heron Pike where we came down. Then we enter the fringe of wood beside the beck for a different kind of magic.
Birch foliage mellows to green-gold beside Mossdale Beck. And the dark growths of witches' broom show amongst the leaves.
A birch struggles up out of a cluster of lichened rocks and grasps them in its clutches.
Storms have brought down trees which straddle the faint path and we duck beneath trunks and climb through branches. Slippery tree roots make weird steps that don’t fit our boots. The wood slows us down, interweaves our way. We reach a glade amongst the trees, a fairy glade of smooth grass. Trees fall and root balls jut into the air but roots hang on and the tree reinvents itself. An arching trunk of oak rots away and becomes a nursery tree for a tiny birch and a rowan sapling. It’s full of lichens, ferns and mosses.
Is this a fallen branch snaking across the ground? And where the weight of a tree presses down into the earth can it root again. The silent wood is full of wonder and the misty mellowness of autumn.
Jan Wiltshire is a nature writer living in Cumbria. She also explores islands and coast and the wildlife experience. (See Home and My Books.)