Finally, after a week of heavy rain and strong winds the cloud and gloom began to lift around midday on Saturday. Torrential downpours the night before had created streams where there weren’t supposed to be streams and it seemed like a good time to go for a small explore, try out some new equipment (thanks KEEN Footwear!) and plan a route for Emma’s latest venture, Micro Hikers. Wandering down forestry tracks and around the woodlands where our workshops are held, we splashed through the saturated countryside studying fungi, discovering subtle signs of spring’s advance and enjoying the way in which the sunlight illuminated droplets of rain hanging on the tips of leaves and branches making them glimmer like tiny lights. As the low winter sun began to sink behind the trees we kindled a small fire back at home in the woods, warmed our hands and feet and drank coffee in the fading light.
In search of a different landscape the following day, we headed west along the downs to an area of heathland, scots pine forest and a secret hidden tunnel of deep dark Rhododendron. This is an interesting spot for the curious outdoors person and a conflicting one for the conservationist; Rhododendron is a non native and invasive species that spreads aggressively wherever it takes hold, choking out native flora and fauna resulting in poor biodiversity and fractured ecosystems. Despite these negative attributes, part of our hike takes us through a deep, dark and mysterious tunnel of Rhododendron dripping with moss which is undeniably impressive in its quiet beauty.
It’s interesting to note that many of the places we go to enjoy nature are far from being natural and that so few of us are aware that the landscapes and ecosystems we hike through and explore are unable to support themselves independently due to human intervention. Part of ‘reconnecting’ with nature for us means being curious about the outdoor environment, not only in enjoying the beauty to be found in studying nature’s finer details but also in considering the health and wellbeing of the landscape. We highly recommend delving deeper into the natural history of your favourite hikes and haunts; added adventure and enlightenment on even the shortest trips are almost guaranteed.