Almanac: English oaks and white bluebells

My two middle sons run down the hill together, so close in age that they are almost the same height. The trees dwarf them. When I think back to this wood, I never imagine the trees being so tall; it seems such a close, small place in my memory.

Spring is still with us and red campions line the paths. Newly blossomed, this one spoke to my camera, with all of its recently unfurled crinkles showing in the petals.

We steer off track onto the less-used trails. The bluebells are starting to fade here; they look more settled-in as part of the woodland palette than the electric blues of before. Everywhere above us is the flutter of birds. Beneath our feet, the forest floor stirs with insects.

There is something very comforting in the sight of a new oak tree. A woodland future secured. We find this sapling just a few feet away from a gnarled ancient representative of the same species. Then we spot several more. A nursery of oak.

My older son charges ahead, finding the way. He loves exploring these wilder paths. His brother holds my hand and perfectly mimics the birdsong around us. He pauses to run his fingers lightly through a fern; a shiny beetle crawls onto his hand and he observes it for a moment before settling it onto a fallen branch.

I kneel down next to him and notice that a small daisy that looks pure white from a distance, is delicately edged with pink tinges to each petal.

This unexplored route takes us almost out of the woodland. The path then comes back under the shade of the tree canopy beside a small stream, whose waters flow down from the edge of the dairy fields.

After crossing an old wooden bridge and taking a short uphill climb we return to our hidden glade. The clearing is so verdant, it is hard to imagine that just a few months before it was an icy winter pond fringed with sharp bare branches.

On this shadier side of the wood, the bluebells need a little more coaxing and are only just in their first flush of vivid colour. They arrive later, though always appear in denser numbers.

We stop for a while and scan this floral horizon, nowhere to rush to. When the breeze rushes through the tiny bells they become a shimmering ocean beneath the trees. As they crest, we spot a flare of white amongst the blue.

Before us is an albino variety of the English bluebell, exceptionally rare in the wild. I make a note of where we find it, in the hopes that it will return next year.

—Keep safe and well everyone. With heartfelt thanks to all those who are working to keep us safe, especially those on the frontline in the NHS and hospitals around the world.

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