Love your woods

I walked through the woodlands and grounds to Penrhyn Castle workshop this morning. Mist from the sea rolled in with the tide and soon the mottled sky of blue and cloud disappeared. Dew clung to the leaves as I walked until I entered the woodland where it was quite dry and warm.

Robins (not US type) tinkled their friendly bell-like sound as a I passed as only an English Robin can. I hadn’t realised how much I had missed these sounds when I lived away from Britain for two decades. Unless you take walks purposely it’s hard to step off the conveyor belt of car life and industry. My workshop gives me a sanity I can seldom find elsewhere and so too the walk.

It’s a time of change now. Life has its seasons, yet somehow they now drift in and out as if, unconsciously now, we feel the season’s change less and less and the rhythms of life once common to all no longer affect us, save for temperature changes, wet spells and such things as that. Splitting wood has been gone from British homes for over a century as people now rely on gas and electricity. So too the knowledge of the woods and woodland, the wood we work and the methods we use to work it.

I know yew to work it and to see its fruit as well as the leaves and the poisonous aspects of its substance. This wood is extreme, colourful, wild and untameable. Here I see inside the red case a ball of deepest purple. And the red, such vivid hue is scarce in nature.

As a child the berries of wild trees of all types came to full colour in October as most leaves yield their summer colour to duller yellows, reds, ambers and finally dull browns.







The holly on the other hand shines quite brightly with its spikes and edges tinged with yellow and then again that pillar-box red, red berry that’s always so lovely to see.


Hawthorn in hedges makes rarely a tree, but in a hedge it’s bull-resistant sturdy and has been known to stop even trucks at full speed. The hawthorn berry takes on a different red than the holly and when I see it now I remember the tasks set by my teacher when we gathered the autumn fruits of trees in the form of nuts and berries for our nature study classes.

Of elderberry I know quite little save that it makes wine and is deep purply-black in great clusters. My wife makes an elderflower drink that’s quite delicious.







Walking though the beech groves the squirrels scamper at my presence. Every so often the nut cluster drops nearby.

The squirrels feed mostly on the fallen beechnuts, as they are the ones nearest to readiness. The evidence of squirrel feeding is obvious.








Spend time in the woods my woodworking friends. Take the children too. Don’t simply allow them to run wild as some advocate. Stop and listen to the leaf fall and see the squirrels vault the canopy. The robin (UK robins) and the wren will surely sing to them and in the cathedral of the arched branches they will revere the sphere of God’s creative work.