“Let’s make Fire” my two year old daughter suggests as we play in the old part of the hazel woods. There is a fire pit where we made fires last year though mainly in the Spring. Irish summers are unpredictable and you might well find yourself enjoying beautiful weather in February or March but failing to find consecutive days without rain right through June, July and August. I try to think when we made fire and cooked in the wood last and how possibly a two year old could remember?
I am reading Richard Louv’s “Last Child in the Woods” and how far we have allowed children to be removed from nature but I wonder when I look at my daughter: “Are our children as far removed as we think?”
Walking through the woods on this chilly February morning I can understand how a two year old’s memory can be triggered. My earliest memories of playing in the wood are still fresh, our woods were our Hawaii Five O, our battlefields and our cities. I don’t remember noticing the things that I notice now. Nature was not then something to be noticed perhaps just lived.
The frog spawn in the pond near the railway for me always heralds Spring, usually in our around Valentine’s Day. I guess the Frogs are feeling less that amorous this year or perhaps last years big freeze has left them a little wary!
Being an adult finds me looking for different things in the wood than as a child. My quest now is not for a sword-shaped hazel rod but rather a forage for something on the woodland carpet of vegetation for some Wild Garlic (Ransom) leaves which blended with a few fresh nettle shoots might make a tasty soup that will drive out the meanest of toxins from our winter weary bodies. I don’t want to make the mistake of a few years ago in taking a bite of a garlic-like leaf which had just ops its head above ground only to discover that I had bitten some type of fern, which no doubt cured me of something! So a time for everything.
In a few weeks the dull woodland carpet will start to transform into a kaleidoscope of colour with primroses, wood anemones and wood sorrel. This will also signal the waking up of the wood itself and the opportunity to tap the rising sap of the Birch Tree for a refreshing Spring aperitif.
The winter however has yet to fully surrender to the woodland. Only a few resilient wild strawberries are taking a chance, the tastiest ones will leave it until the summer.
Our Wonderful Woodlands, best discovered with a child as your guide.