If there is one place that I feel at home; safe, relaxed, devoid of stress and generally not part of the 21st Century it is in the embrace of the mossy green interior of woodland.
I spend a lot of my spare time in the local woods for the peace away from the daily routine, for the wildlife and for the history of the landscape.
Traditional woodland management is a great interest of mine and sadly I do not have opportunity enough to practice those skills but while I might not often be carrying out woodland work I still enjoy reading the signs of previous uses. Coppices, neglected once laid hedges, banks, ditches, rides all tell the story of the woodland if you know how to read them.
Then there are other signs, signs of activity. As mentioned previously we rely on sight too much of the time. Walking along heads raised to spot the bird in the tree, chasing the butterfly to get a 'snap' on a digital camera, and maybe listening to the sounds of woodpecker drumming or chiff chaff overhead.
However the woodland tells a much wider tale if you let it and practice another kind of 'not seeing' the art of seeing what was there a few hours ago but now is tucked up away out of sight.
If you put the ability of being able to 'read' the topology of the woodland with the skill of reading the signs of wildlife then you can have an experience of a busy living landscape without having to actually 'see' anything.
Above is one of the routes of one of the nocturnal residents of the woodland, regularly in use as can be determined from the absence of new growth and animal not human from the direction it takes running under undergrowth that a human would have to go around.
Fresh rooting in the ground (above) tells a story and if you are lucky you may find a print in soft ground (left).
There are other trails to be found in the woods though that tell a much darker story.
Beware the Woodland Sprites lest they take you away.
While the residents of the wood may leave signs of their foraging and passing when no human is around for those with the interest to read them, humans also seem to like to leave signs for those that follow. Wildlife mark territories humans also leave their mark, their sign of ownership and of disrespect.
So how do we follow these signs that humans make? It really is quite easy.
Lets approach this remnant of ancient woodland (that also happens to be a National Nature Reserve [NNR] and Site of Special Scientific Interest [SSSI]), so we journey through the countryside and finally down a winding green lane...
.. and there it is, the first sign to indicate the passing of people. The sad fact here is that the litter is in a carrier bag but then it would seem that the idea of transporting that bag away does not sit well.. maybe the car was nice and clean and the thought of litter even in a bag was not appealing.. much better to leave it on the roadside.
So we have our first indication of the human species. The signs as we proceed into the woods become far more clear and conclusive that our species is around.
Most dog owners do thankfully pick up their dogs mess and take it away. Some just leave it for others to step around and there is a third option for which I have never been able to come up with a explanation. The dog walker that picks the dog mess up... and then flings the bag into a bush or drops it off as here to adorn a tree by the entrance gate.
And so the story continues, the view into the woodland is so much enhanced with a splash of red as I am sure the consumer of this beverage discerned. Worthless once the contents have been consumed and far too heavy and bulky to carry it away.
I could track my whole journey this morning but I am sure that you get the picture (and if you don't then the picture below documents the sum of litter collected today on my morning walk through England's green and pleasant land.
When I see this and how we treat our wildlife and 'wild' places.. with indifference and disrespect I truly feel ashamed to be part of the human race.
There is no need to leave 'our mark' in this way. People travel presumably to enjoy the beauty of a place and then despoil that very place with a lack of consideration that boggles the mind.
Litter is mindless, disrespectful and unnecessary at best. At worst it pollutes the environment and causes injury to wildlife and people.