Tag Archives: woodland

The Trouble with Lichen…

I‘ve blogged about moss before, that carpet of jewelled green that enthrals me,
and lichen does the same. Lichen has the same delicate natural beauty
clinging to crumbling walls, to trees, and swathing the local woodlands.

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I don’t think there is any trouble with lichen, yep, I’m a John Wyndham fan, but we haven’t yet decided if lichen is the fountain of youth – it may be, but that’s another story!

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Five varieties of lichen © Lisa Shambrook

I love how lichen decorates trees and rocks, swathing walls, finding its way into nooks and crannies in an almost microscopic way. Moss and lichen create drapery and carpets for our woodlands and forests in the UK. You can also find them on rocks and cliffs at the beach, surviving in deserts and seemingly barren terrain, and in the Rainforests, and upon snowy mountain ridges. They can be found across the planet from Antarctica to the Equator and back to the Arctic.

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Foliose Lichen © Lisa Shambrook

It is thought lichens were probably the first flora ever to adorn the earth… We have used it for antibiotic compounds, scents in perfumes, and much in science. Beatrix Potter also studied lichens and drew them for scientific works before Peter Rabbit grew in fame! Before synthetic dyes were produced, soft greens, brown, yellows, and even orange, red, and blue dyes could be made from lichens. It’s also been used to date rocks and glaciers. There are Arctic lichens that have lived for more than 4,000 years…

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Foliose, Squamulose, and Crustose Lichen © Lisa Shambrook

The observance of lichen can show the health of an area. They left cities during the Industrial Revolution, due to sulphur dioxide in the air from burning coal, but as we move away from coal lichen are reappearing in many areas they were once lost to. Pollution obstructs them and lichen growth shows purity and clean air.

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Crustose Lichen © Lisa Shambrook

I find calm in the beauty of nature and examining the curls of leafy Foliose lichen, the spread of flat Crustose, the scales or squidgy pebbles of Squamulose, and the fascinating stalks of shrubby Fruticose lichen take me to a world of tranquillity.

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Foliose, Squamulose, and Fruticose Lichen © Lisa Shambrook

Lichen is not a single organism – it is a symbiotic relationship between fungus, and algae and/or cyanobacteria. Moss and lichen don’t have root systems, they anchor themselves with rhizoids. They don’t draw nourishment from the ground but through photosynthesis, air and water. They hold many times their own weight in water and aid the forest as sponging, cooling and humidifying systems. They are also able to go dormant when they’re under stress.

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Foliose and Squamulose Lichen © Lisa Shambrook

Ever wonder why slugs and snails don’t feed on them? They have a bitter taste, unpalatable to slugs and snails. They are basic necessity within nature, as food, as nesting and den material, soil preparation, and they benefit the whole ecosystem.

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Foliose and Squamulose Lichen © Lisa Shambrook

Lastly, some varieties have a high tolerance of radiation, and they are so hardy they have even been known to survive outer space – in 2005 an ESA (European Space Agency) experiment took them out of our atmosphere for two weeks, and upon re-entry they survived and thrived.

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Squamulose and Crustose Lichen and Moss Hedgehogs © Lisa Shambrook

Maybe we really will find life out there, maybe in the form of lichen…
or maybe, just maybe, they’ll be the toughest thing to survive this planet,
long after we have gone…

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Fruticose, Foliose, Squamulose, and Crustose Lichen © Lisa Shambrook

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The Best Bits of Autumn

Autumn shows us the beauty of letting go and cosying up together…

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Warm Blankets and Snug Sweaters…
Don’t you just love cosying up?

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© Lisa Shambrook

Revitalising Hot Chocolate…
Nothing better than a delicious hot chocolate to warm up an autumn day!

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© Lisa Shambrook

Back to Boots…
I love my boots, Dr Martens and anything I can kick leaves in!

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© Lisa Shambrook

Pumpkins, Halloween, Fire and Fireworks…
Dressing up is definitely our thing, light up the dark nights!

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© Lisa Shambrook

Homecooked Soup and Comfort Food…
Coming home on a frosty day to a beautiful hot meal!

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© Lisa Shambrook

Falling Leaves…
I’m a child at heart, kicking through crunchy leaves and loving the colours!

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© Lisa Shambrook

Woodland Walks and Strolls…
Early sunsets, turning leaves and that freshness keep me on my toes!

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© Lisa Shambrook

Scarves, Hats and Gloves…
Stay warm, snuggle up in your favourite coat and accessories!

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© Lisa Shambrook

Acorns and Conkers…
Yep, I am a squirrel… 

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© Lisa Shambrook

Jack Frost’s Chill…
The thrill of the chill and the delight of breathing dragon smoke is mine! 

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© Lisa Shambrook

How is your Autumn and what’s your favourite bit so far?

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© Lisa Shambrook

Where is Your Happy Place?

When life is throwing shards of ice at you, your head is ready to explode,
or you are just in a dark, bottomless pit (figuratively – otherwise you’re not going anywhere…), where do you go? Where’s your happy place?

Where is your Happy Place - Lisa Shambrook - The Last Krystallos
Last week I blogged about water – it’s my happy place. Where’s yours?

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Feet in the water © Lisa Shambrook

I am happiest when I have my feet in water, down at the beach, letting waves ebb and flow as I splash through the ocean. This is where I am in my element. It revitalises me, lifts me, and energises me. It calms me, relaxes me, and soothes my spirit. Sometimes, if I can’t get to the sea, I can sit by or dabble my feet in a river, and the rush of water will still my senses. The sound, the movement, the texture of water all affect me, and without doubt it’s where I am happiest.

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© Lisa Shambrook

Woodlands and forests have a similar effect. The magic of trees, bluebells, wild anemones, winding tracks and pathways offer me another place of happiness and retreat. Listening to the wind whisper, fae glancing through flowers, and even trickling streams take me away from the troubles outside and stresses decrease.

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High on a Mountain Top © Lisa Shambrook

My oldest daughter loves mountain tops, the rugged landscape and the freedom of the wind and the air. I, too, feel alive when I stand upon mountains and hillsides!

Where are my other happy places? How do I cope when I can’t get out and throw myself headlong into nature?

My dog and my cats are another safe zone. They have the added bonus of interacting with you too. I’d never known complete unconditional love, until I owned a dog. Her dependence on me is total and she gives me everything. Deep chocolate brown eyes and loyalty that’s unheard of in most creatures, including humans. If things are bad, she knows and she’ll sit beside me with her head on my knees.  She also gets me out, dog walking, and into nature every day! She is my happy place.

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Misty, Raven and Roxy © Lisa Shambrook

My cats, though more conditional with their love, are also there for me. Run your fingers through soft fur and listen to a cat’s purr, and you can’t fail to feel better. One reason why it’s proven that the older generation live longer and happier when they own a pet, is that they give you love and a reason to go on.

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Writing and Art © Lisa Shambrook

My other releases are writingnothing takes me away from stress and trouble than losing myself in another world, in words and places that don’t exist outside my head – and creativity. Making things, stories, or art, or craft, take me to happy places.

All these things, all these happy places can be solitary, or with my family. My family are always welcome in all my happy places – they make my happy places even better!

Where are you happy places?

Where do you go when it’s all too much?

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Chocolate © Lisa Shambrook

PS. We probably shouldn’t forget chocolate…that’s always a happy place!

Tell me about your Happy Place…

Bluebell Woods and an Enchanting Carpet of Colour

‘…she flopped to the ground amid the bluebells.
Her hands brushed the mat of flowers and she lowered her head 
staring intently at the spray of tiny bells.’
Beneath the Rainbow

Bluebell Woods and an Enchanting Carpet of Colour

Anyone stopping by my blog cannot fail to notice my love for bluebells. You’ll find them on my banner and on my first book cover, I’ve blogged about them before and they’ve been my favourite flower since I was small. Now I wander through Carmarthen’s Green Castle Woods rather than the Sussex woodlands of my childhood. The beauty, however, exists countrywide.

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© Lisa Shambrook

Bluebells talk to me of spring, new growth, romance, fairies, childhood and innocence, and I look forward to them every year. The hardy flowers thrive in our damp climate amongst the woodland flora. 50% of our native bluebells grow in our woodlands and we stroll through their carpet of blue every April and May as their delicate flowers swathe the ground.

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© Lisa Shambrook

Not much gets in their way as they spread beneath our trees, but the Victorian introduction of Spanish Bluebells, as garden plants, have become a threat over the years.

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© Lisa Shambrook

Spanish bluebells are stronger and more vigorous, and can easily crossbreed creating a fertile hybrid. Native bluebells have become protected by UK law and we’re encouraged not to grow the Spanish variety in our gardens.

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© Lisa Shambrook

The varieties have distinctive differences and the hybrids lean more to the stronger Spanish Bluebell.

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Native British Bluebells © Lisa Shambrook

British Bluebells (hyacinthoides non-scripta)

Dainty, nodding and delicate.
They have narrow stems and leaves, and arch like a shepherd’s crook with delicate bells that droop.
The bells only hang from one side of the stem, nodding lightly.
They have a soft sweet scent and are often a deep purple, violet blue and have creamy white/yellow anthers and pollen.
Their bells are narrow and the petals curl back at the tips and they carry fewer flowers.

 

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Spanish Bluebells © Lisa Shambrook

Spanish Bluebells (hyacinthoides hispanica)

Sturdy, upright and strapping.
These have a much thicker stem and leaves, standing tall and erect.
Their bells are more closely packed and their sturdy stems can hold more flowers.
The bells don’t hang they grow all around the stem and are generally a paler lilac blue.
They don’t really have a scent and their anthers and pollen are blue.
The bells are shorter and open wider.

 

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© Lisa Shambrook

Both are beautiful, but the Spanish bluebells that once grew in my garden are now restrained in containers, while I allow the natives to sweep, unrestricted, through the undergrowth. And every now and again I’ll revel in the white bluebells that show their nodding faces…

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Beneath the Rainbow © Lisa Shambrook

Here’s a fun author/writerly fact:
Bluebell bulbs and stems were once used to make glue that was used to bind books!

Where do you find your favourite bluebells? 

The Fascinating World within Nature’s Carpet – Gathering Moss

Moss swathes the forest floor, old stone walls, and creeps leisurely onward.
It drapes the trees and cloaks the ground in a jewelled garment of green.
Moss creates its own miniature ecosystem – a forest within itself.

Gathering Moss - The Last Krystallos

Brechfa Forest - Gathering Moss | The Last Krystallos

Brechfa Forest © Lisa Shambrook

My favourite colour is very much lead by nature and lends itself to my romantic soul which finds delight in anything serene and beautiful. My favourite colour is the honey green of moss, the earthy colour of the forest floor softened by the peridot jewel tone.

When I need to unwind or just return to my roots, I wander in the forests and the earthy tones of green and soft breeze lull my soul.

One gram of moss contains... - Robin Wall Kimmerer | The Last Krystallos

Robin Wall Kimmerer © Lisa Shambrook

 

 

 

 

 

There are over 1,000 species of moss in Britain, with more yet to be discovered, though many people only notice two or three varieties. If you get right down on the woodland ground you’ll see the intricate detail and real ecosystem living right there in amongst the moss and lichen, especially if you have a magnifying glass. Moss is nature’s carpet.

Reindeer Moss - Gathering Moss | The Last Krystallos

Reindeer Moss © Lisa Shambrook

Moss and lichens don’t have root systems, they anchor themselves with rhizoids. They don’t draw nourishment from the ground but through photosynthesis, air and water. They hold many times their own weight in water and aid the forest as sponging, cooling and humidifying systems. They are also able to go dormant when they’re under stress.

Elan Valley - Haircap Moss | Gathering Moss | The Last Krystallos

Elan Valley – Haircap Moss © Lisa Shambrook

They have great strength, especially as they grow dense and low to the ground, but they are still vulnerable. They are stripped for the florist industry and are constantly trod upon. As our society, towns and farms spreads into their territory they try to grow, as you’ll see on walls, paving slabs and rooves, but many new building materials are not moss friendly. Many people will also treat moss with weed-killer killing off their tiny ecosystems. My garage shares its roof with my neighbour’s garage and my side of the roof was blanketed with little hedgehogs of cushion moss, and my neighbour, who follows a regimented gardening style used a weed-killer to remove the moss and thereby prevent damp in the garage. This made me sad – I suppose I don’t mind a little damp…

Moss in its element - Gathering Moss | The Last Krystallos

Moss in its element © Lisa Shambrook

One of my most favourite places locally is the Brechfa Forest. It’s like a fairy-tale forest and I expect to bump into Galadriel. Moss covers the forest floor in a springy carpet and drapes like feathery curtains from the fir trees. It’s a magical walk, and the dog loves it too!

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Moss in Brechfa © Lisa Shambrook

Ancient conversation moses and rocks - Robin Wall Kimmerer - Gathering Moss | The Last Krystallos

Robin Wall Kimmerer © Lisa Shambrook

What do you love about moss? Or do you have a different favourite woodland flora?
One of my most favourite photos is one I took on Exmoor of a tree swathed in moss…pure magic…

Exmoor mossy tree - The Last Krystallos

Exmoor moss swathed tree © Lisa Shambrook

Trentham Gardens – Beauty and Creativity: Nature unbound…

I seek out both beauty and nature, and it soothes my soul
when I discover a place where they exist hand-in-hand –
Trentham Gardens is such a place.

trentham gardens farie sculptures, robin wight, amy wight, dandelions,Just a couple of weeks ago a Facebook friend, Julia, shared a photograph of Dandelion sculptures and when it came up on my newsfeed they made me draw my breath. I had no idea where they were, but I searched for Trentham Gardens and discovered that they were close to Stoke…and I was heading up to Preston soon. I knew I wanted to see these installations first hand and nothing was going to stop me seeking out the beauty and creativity of these lovely gardens.

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Trentham Gardens © Lisa Shambrook

My husband and I braved the motorways, which seemed to be nonstop jams, and spent a revitalising afternoon at the Trentham Estate.

Trentham has a recorded history from 1086, receiving a mention in the Domesday book through to current times with a fascinating history, and the gardens feature greatly, including landscape design from the famous Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown. This place is indeed a site of nature unbound and nature contained…my favourite being the unbound kind of nature!

You can shop and eat in the shopping village with free parking, and the garden’s entry price is found here. Once inside the magnificent landscape, with children’s play area, formal and informal gardens, the lake and woodland walks, intense beauty is right at your fingertips.

…and…there are fairies at Trentham…

© Lisa Shambrook

© Lisa Shambrook

Many fairies, fourteen, I think, live within Trentham’s bounds…and your aim is to find each of them. They were created from galvanised and stainless steel wire by sculptor Robin Wight (Facebook Page), and his daughter Amy Wight recently created the huge dandelions in the wildflower meadow.

Fairies at Trentham Gardens by Robin Wight © Lisa Shambrook

Fairies at Trentham Gardens by Robin Wight © Lisa Shambrook

These dandelions stand fifteen feet tall and make you feel like a fairy yourself as you stand at their feet and gaze up at the wishes blowing out across the blue sky…

Make your own wish, and see if the fairies help them come true!

dandelions at Trentham Gardens by Amy Wight,

Dandelions at Trentham Gardens by Amy Wight © Lisa Shambrook

I was amazed at the sheer beauty and craftsmanship. The dandelions stretch high and shimmer as the sun dances upon them and Trentham loves you to share your photos #TrenthamGardens on Twitter and Instagram…

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Sculptures at Trentham Gardens © Lisa Shambrook

Each fairy, an exquisite piece of art, invites you to believe in fairytales and dreams and you’ll be searching high and low to find them. Fairies aren’t the only art installations either; search for the otters, stag beetles, deer and birds among other sculpted creatures and delights.

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Trentham Gardens in Autumn…note the dandelions in the centre of the photo… © Lisa Shambrook

I adored Trentham, especially in autumn, there’s no comparison for me. Autumn brings gold, russet and red tones, and a carpet of leaves to crunch and rustle through. The woodland walk and lake is magical; you’ll see herons and swans, and hear the birds twittering above you. The old mansion is a romantic ruin, but you’ll imagine courting couples wandering through the historical gardens, and maybe lovers catching a kiss beneath the arches and trees…

Discover the fairies at Trentham © Lisa Shambrook

Discover the fairies at Trentham and check out the size comparison! © Lisa Shambrook

Take a walk yourself and bathe yourself in history and beauty…
and nature unbound…and let the fairies guide you!

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Spring Fairy at Trentham Dandelions © Lisa Shambrook

Wishes do come true…

Nature Unbound © Lisa Shambrook, trentham gardens,

Nature Unbound © Lisa Shambrook

How To Find Nature’s Antidepressants

‘I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.’
John Burroughs

nature's-antidepressants-title-the-last-krystallos 1These last few weeks have been tough. There’s no reason, except for the rising mists of depression that have been circling my feet. Depression doesn’t need a reason.

It’s been a good few years since the black dog really bit a chunk out of me. I live with anxiety and panic, but I’ve kept depression at bay. When it began swirling about my feet a few weeks ago it was unexpected, though not surprising. Depression is an illness you know can and often returns without warning.

I’m currently still in the early stages of an episode and I’m fighting. I’ve used many methods to overcome depression over the years, including medication and therapy. This time I’m hoping to quash it naturally before it has the chance to develop.

I have a headstart as autumn is my favourite season – so here goes:

*How to fight depression purely through nature…

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Sunset, ocean and clouds © Lisa Shambrook

Anything that makes you feel good helps, so I’m storing the good things like sunsets and clouds. I can escape when I watch clouds and escaping into my imagination always gives me somewhere to go when darkness attacks.

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Ocean © Lisa Shambrook

The ocean is another of my go to places. The ocean heals me. It calms my troubled mind and lifts my soul. A calm sea is a balm and a rough sea ignites my passions. Talking of water, another way I fight depression is to swim, which I’ve blogged about before. Powering through the water uses energy, is relaxing and exercise has been proven to help fight depression.

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Green Castle Woods, walks, sunshine and smiles © Lisa Shambrook

Walking is exercise. On days when I can’t get to the gym, I can walk through woodlands, meadows, and the countryside. My German Shepherd gives me reason (if I need it and sometimes depression can kill motivation) and we walk every day. I live in a gorgeous area and we can discover adventure together beneath the canopy and fresh air.

Sunshine and smiles. Smile and you feel better. Simple. Sunshine also gives the feel good factor right along with vitamins. Don’t forget we need sufficient hours of daylight to fuel and charge our bodies.

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Snowdonia and eagles © Lisa Shambrook

Mountains, valleys, woodlands, forests…nature’s kingdom leaves me in awe and that’s always good. Get out there and enjoy the boost Mother Earth offers for free. Watch the birds soar, and let yourself escape!

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Red Squirrel (found by Dan on Prince Edward Island, Canada) and Green Castle Woods Oak © Lisa Shambrook

I mentioned my dog and I also have cats. They love me, yes, even my cats do! Animal therapy works, stroking an animal reduces blood pressure and calms the soul. Animals offer the sort of unconditional love many humans don’t. Get out and discover what lives in the wild. Vince and I once saw a deer, just a few feet away. It stared at us and we stared back for a few minutes before it bounded away, but in those days without camera phones, it’s just a snapshot memory…maybe they’re the best type…

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Discovery apples and autumn leaves © Lisa Shambrook

I adore trees, and they remind me how to grow, tall and strong. Climb one if you want, feel that sense of achievement, as long as you don’t get stuck! Enjoy nature’s fruits, eat natural and healthy. I love our apples! Like I said earlier, Autumn is my favourite season, so the turning leaves both inspire and humble me, and make the perfect atmosphere to fight the darkness.

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Roses and Lavender © Lisa Shambrook

Flowers. I’ve blogged lots about flowers, nature’s decoration, her jewels. The scent of jasmine, or orange blossom, or roses and lavender inspire and rouse and lift me.

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Simplicity of nature’s flowers, rudbekia and daisies © Lisa Shambrook

So, I’m fighting. I’m getting out there and inhaling September, breathing in the beauty of nature and letting it infuse and heal me.

So tell me what helps you overcome life’s difficulties?
How do you allow nature to heal you? 

*It’s important to note that while nature can be a powerful prescription, if your depression intensifies, please seek help from your GP. Medication has its place and if used correctly can work wonders.

The Old Oak: Green Castle Woods

I have a real thing for trees, and in particular oaks.
I live in a market town which thrives on the legend of its old oak,
so it’s perhaps appropriate that the oak inspires me!

the old oak green castle woods, the last krystallos,Maybe I’ll write a post about Carmarthen’s Old Oak in the future, but today I want to show you my favourite local oak. It’s not a towering, far-reaching, huge, sun-blocking tree; it’s small, but adorable.

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The old oak in spring – Green Castle Woods – May 2014 © Lisa Shambrook

I’ve tried to find out information about its history and come up with nothing, but it entrances me all the same, and I cannot walk by without imagining a rich past and a fantastical future! I imagine dragons wheeling above, squirrels collecting acorns, and creatures hibernating within its embrace.

The Old Oak in winter - Green Castle Woods - Dec 2014 © Lisa Shambrook

The old oak in winter – Green Castle Woods – Dec 2014 © Lisa Shambrook

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.

The old oak seasons - Green Castle Woods © Lisa Shambrook

The old oak seasons – Green Castle Woods © Lisa Shambrook

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. It’s a popular dog walking area and we often take our German shepherd around the surrounding woodland and wander through the gorgeous bluebell woods. These woods inspire me and they’ve also become the place where each of my book cover images were taken. You’ll see the bluebells on the cover of ‘Beneath the Rainbow’, another oak on ‘Beneath the Old Oak’ and in the future you’ll see a carved out trunk on ‘Beneath the Distant Star’.

baby owl in owl box green castle woods, the last krystallos,

Baby owl – Green Castle Woods © Lisa Shambrook

Woodlands and trees offer me solace, perhaps there is nothing (except the ocean) more soul inspiring to me than the wind whispering through the canopy above, and the crunch of leaves and twigs beneath my feet. The vibrant colours that shine as the sun peers through the trees and the wildflowers peeping through the foliage and the undergrowth delight me.  I love the fragrance of spring, fresh and clean, and the musty rich scent of autumn as the season turns.  It’s peaceful and beautiful and I’ll always return to the woods.

Take a wander through Green Castle woods (click for map and leaflet), on both sides of the road, and you could find a Butterfly Totem pole, a bench protected by carved owls, an actual owl living in the well-hidden owl boxes, a bench decorated with the sun and the moon, a miniature replica of the main walk, a walk across small bridges and through the woods, my gorgeous almost magical oak, and much more. Like I said, I’ll always return…

Green Castle Woods - Carmarthen  © Lisa Shambrook

Green Castle Woods – Carmarthen © Lisa Shambrook

What do you love about the woods, and what is your favourite woodland tree?