Wild Boar Wood retained its winter nakedness as it awaited our arrival.
The trees stood skinny and diminished beneath a steel-grey sky, as if sleeping to escape their grief at our late-summer retreat to towns and houses.
The plants under our feet had at least prepared for our return, pushing up green leaves as they waited for the right moment to burst into braggardly bloom.
We pitched a tent and lit a fire, chopped vegetables and cooked food, ate our evening meal in darkness, and after a while retreated to bed to ready ourselves for the next day’s toil.
When I stepped out of the tent and into daylight I knew that the wood had awoken. I felt it cautiously welcome me as each day it filled out a little more, giving me gifts of leaves which unfurled and swelled with youthful grace, hiding patches of the suddenly blue sky and making frilled parasols above my head.
The bluebells began to bloom; a few more each day, until the ground was covered with swathes of a shade close to cobalt, with dots of gold in between, where the yellow archangels fought their way through the unndergrowth. Around the edges of these carpets were early flowering dog violets, much bigger and bolder than their later counterparts, and in the more boggy areas I found Coralroot – a rare plant only to be seen in the South-East of England – lording it over bright coloured celandine and subtle, dark, bugle. Bouquets of Goldilocks buttercups and nosegays of primroses were scattered about the woodland, and I nibbled on the sharp-flavoured leaves of wood sorrel. Those most beautiful of plants, wood anemones were present in abundance.
The brambles were growing fast, and the wild raspberries and redcurrants were preparing for a fat season. All around me birds sang and warbled. Squirrels ran up trees, and startled deer scattered. A grass snake slithered through the forest to escape human intrusion, and a fox hunted for meat to feed her young, which could be heard yapping nearby.
Spring had arrived at Wild Boar Wood.