Lockdown is lifted and we can journey into the ancient forest again.
An early start. On our short drive, the trees gradually reveal themselves in layers of green. The view is softened; we are watching the day form itself into shape.
The mist feels like a fine spring rain, yet suspended in mid air. The humidity is soothing to the skin.
My little daughter holds up her hands to catch the dew falling from the canopy above every time there is sudden breeze.
The clearing beside my favourite oak tree is now verdant with bright uncurling bracken. We are the only ones here. Just us seven and a chorus of birdsong; a wood pigeon questions and from a distance another answers. Directly above us a squabble results in a few feathers falling at our feet. My daughter picks one out of the soft damp ground, now-grubby fingers holding it skywards as if to offer it back to the owner.
We follow the path as it dips down. I look up to see the mist suspended above the canopy, obscuring the sky.
A few steps ahead, my daughter picks her way carefully over raised roots. She pauses and attempts to lift one, not yet understanding that these unmoving “twigs” belong to the giant trees that surround us.
Here in the lower part of the forest, the morning dew has settled on the foliage. Some small woodland resident passes by us unseen, brushing against the undergrowth, sending the droplets cascading to the ground.
Ivy clings to the trees and between its leaves there is a network of fine cobwebs. More adventurous spiders have swung from tree to tree to spin threads across our path, now shimmering in the early light. I try and duck beneath them, letting them stay in place a little longer.
Do I breathe this deeply and gladly at any other time? It is soon after this walk that we get into the habit of opening the doors and windows of our home every morning when we wake, to welcome in the fresh dawn air.
My daughter is beguiled by the foxgloves that tower above her. She draws ever closer to what she calls “bells” though goes no further as she heeds my gentle warning to leave the toxic flowers be.
We hike up a small track in the fern covered hillside to the forest’s highest point. My eldest son holds up low branches of holly for his little sister to walk safely beneath. We hear distant road traffic, other voices in the forest. A man walks his dog on the footpath below us.
The light has changed since we set out and the world is awake.