‘It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men’s hearts,
as for that subtle something, that quality of air that emanation from old trees,
that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit.’
Robert Louis Stevenson
Forests are inspiring, especially to writers. Imagine Tolkien without Fangorn Forest and the Ents, or Lothlórien, or Mirkwood. And Walter De La Mare’s The Listeners would be nothing without its haunting forest’s ferny floor. Even Shakespeare’s Macbeth awaiting Birnam Wood… We have been inspired by trees and forests since the beginning of time, and I can’t see the fascination ending.
I recently read these two articles, the first on Brechfa Forest and the second a list of Twenty of the Best British Forests, and it made me reflect on my local woods and forests. Having a dog means exploring forests becomes a way of life and I have my favourites.
Green Castle Woods, just outside Carmarthen on the road to Llansteffan, was one of Roxy’s best places. She loved to lope through the trees and the bluebells, sniffing, wading through mud and/or leaves, and enjoying the fresh outdoors. Bluebells are always a major reason for visiting Green Castle – they’re my favourite flower and have influenced my writing – and they bring me peace. Bluebells and white wood anemone with fairy wings blanket the woods in spring and leaves of bronze, gold, and brown colour autumn.
The circular walk ends, either in 30 minutes or an hour, at the old oak. This tree has captivated me for years. When I first saw it, standing alone, I thought it was dead, especially as it was midwinter and bare, but as spring dawned I noticed new growth and my own excitement burgeoned just like its leaf buds! It spread gnarled branches, and foliage erupted and beauty ensued. It quickly became the most beautiful and unusual tree I know.
This oak is not much more than ten feet tall, and hollow. I know nature withstands a great deal, and the fact that it is fully alive amazes me seeing as it’s almost completely hollow. It stands alone in the middle of a reclaimed meadow in Green Castle Woods, and reminds me that even when I’m spent I can still flourish.
Kira is a different dog altogether, so our forest of choice for walking is the much quieter Brechfa Forest. Sixteen and a half acres of forest spread across Northern Carmarthenshire allows you to find your own paths, and due to Kira’s fear reactivity to both people and dogs it’s an ideal place to walk her when we’re not training. It gives her freedom and though, unlike Roxy, she remains on a long retractable lead she enjoys the liberty and opportunity to explore.
Brechfa is magical, like the description in the linked The Independent piece, and it always feels enchanting and ancient. Green is the predominant colour throughout the year, olive, peridot, and emerald. Swathes of moss hang from the spruce and pine, and lichen and moss spread across the grassy forest floor. Reindeer moss hangs in trees like chandelier jewels and like snow on the ground. In autumn toadstools and mushrooms decorate the stumps and fog moves through the trees like ghostly spirits.
Trees offer balm for my soul, wisdom, and pure natural beauty. I could spend all day winding my paths beneath them. Having a dog is a bonus, giving me even more opportunity to walk and share the peaceful gratitude of the forests.
Do you have a favourite woodland or forest?