The beauty of Brechfa forest captivates me offering magic and enchantment and a place to give respite to my weary soul. Gnarled trees clothed in moss and lichen. Tall, spindly spruce, pine, and larch decorated with cones and needles, interspersed with oak and beech, and hedgerows of bracken and fern. Jewel greens all year round finished with autumn copper then silver winter frost.
January brings snowfall, frost, and fog with wispy cloud dropping into the tall pines creating an ethereal landscape. Walking through the glare of light from the low sun makes it bright and crisp and magical as it shimmers across the frost and moss. You might even see the copper winter coat of a fox as it dashes across the forest floor.
February is another month of mist and magic, sparkling through branches clothed with the soft froth of reindeer moss. Reindeer moss swathes the trees like jewels on a chandelier in a soft seafoam green. Bright peridot greens contrast beautifully with the sharp burnt-orange and browns of dead bracken, ferns, mulch and leaves.
In March, and its preceding months, stormy gales whistle and rustle through the spires. Rain and wind are common in Wales and wet, windy winters add to the streams and puddles and saturated land. Pine and spruce are known to have shallow root systems and sometimes you’ll come across fallen trees. Brechfa is looked after by the Forestry Commission and fallen trees across the roads are cleared quickly, but sometimes you’ll need to hop over or circumnavigate fallen logs on the tracks.
April brings lighter showers and the moss swathing the forest floor act like sponges, holding many times their own weight in water aiding the forest as sponging, cooling and humidifying systems. New growth becomes evident as bright green sprouts from branches and spring flowers like bluebells and toadflax intermingle with moss over the forest banks.
May spring growth spread across the branches, and the past seasons’ dead leaves are covered with grass, lichen, and golden-green moss. Green tinged cones are pushing upright on spruce trees like decorative candelabras.
June is predominantly green, autumn colours are gone, and peridot-green is back in charge. Moss swathes the forest floor, trees, and rocks and is sumptuously soft and yielding. There are over one thousand species of moss in Britain, with more yet to be discovered, though many people will only ever notice two or three varieties. Get right down on the woodland floor and you’ll see the intricate ecosystem living right there amongst the moss and lichen.
July sees the forest thickening up with moss, leaves, and foliage, and the additional colour of pink threads through Brechfa. Thistles become homes to the bees, and it’s a real treat to wander through the forest on a warm summer evening and come across purple thistles bending under the weight of sleeping bees! Foxgloves grow tall and said bees also adore their pink bells nodding in the breeze.
August and springy moss carpets the forest floor and drapes like swags of feathery curtains from the fir trees. The woods are thick with green and if you look carefully you could swear the fae are hiding in the undergrowth. Magic emanates from every branch.
September’s autumn sunshine glistens on the gossamer webs that suddenly fill the boughs and you could be lost in Mirkwood. Find the wider tracks to walk if you’re keen to avoid the spiders! Toadstools and mushrooms emerge amongst the moss and mulch, and enjoy the colours as the leaves begin to turn on the oaks and beech trees, and the sunset touches bracken and fern with gold.
October and autumn is here. Leaves have been painted with brass and copper, mosses are tinged with gold as they sport thready stems ready to spore, and larch needles turn golden-yellow before they drop. Cones adorn the firs, and acorns, beechnuts, and hazelnut shells are strewn underfoot, crunching beneath your feet. There’s magic in the air as the cool breeze wafts through the forest.
November brings frost and the pines are dark and foreboding, but the rest of the forest glistens with winter sun and crisp coppers and burnt-orange as the bracken dies and autumn leaves fall. The colours dance in the late sunshine and the birds twitter with warnings of weather and cold.
December and the forest opens up again, with winter light glaring across bare boughs and weaving through the mist. It’s quiet and expectant and maybe snow will fall, coating the trees and drifting over the roads like icing sugar.
And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul
– John Muir
Such a gorgeous place.