Monday, 5 January 2009

There and Back Again

Many thanks for the complimentary comments on the Wytham Woods photographs: it is very photogenic woodland so it wasn't difficult to get interesting ones.

For the third and last visit to Wytham Woods I am going to take you with me on one of my walks. First is a mile and a quarter stretch of uphill which will at least warm you up in this freezing weather. The track on either side is bordered by a band of trees on either side with farmland beyond, reaching a kissing gate with - on this particular morning - a rather hazy view of the "dreaming spires" of Oxford.

Here a pause to catch our breath and answer Julie's question. Tolkien would have known Wytham Woods, though I have been told that the Old Forest is in fact based on somewhere else, so it's difficult to know how much he was influenced by them. I first read The Lord of the Rings after we moved there and found the woodland described in the book very familiar indeed!

Through the kissing-gate at the top of the lane, bear left and you enter the are known variously as (to me) the top road, (to locals) the Gallop and (on the Wytham Woods official map) the Singing Way. Here we find a startling sight - felled logs. Timber is cut from these trees from time to time and moved to the roadside by horse-power, one horse at a time to minimise damage to the forest floor.

We can pause here for a rest, and look at the amazing shapes of the stacked logs ...

and the strange shapes and colours of the fungi on them:

Now the walk becomes a nice level trudge along a good path (soft underfoot providing you walk on the middle bit) to the sound of bridsong. There's all sorts of wildlife all around us but the things that can move are hiding (and I'm not sure I really want to investigate what's under those logs)

This is where many of the weird-shaped branches and weird-shaped trees come from.

Aren't the colours wonderful?
Near here we meet a track which points down to the car-park which is why there are more humans than in the earlier bit.
Continue for some distance past a memorial stone to Hazel ffennell, who sadly died young and whose father gifted the woods to the university in 1943, and then turn down another track, where you come across a rather fanciful-looking building:

This is known as the chalet: when I lived in the woods, the Warden lived here; now Wytham Woods has a Conservator (probably a more accurate title and probably posher) but I don't think he lives here - I could be wrong!
From here we take a real road downhill (we've walked a long way already, need to get back and therefore must leave Wytham Great Woods for another day) to where there was once a working sawmill, and follow the path along a wondrously idyllic-looking green field full of sheep with Wythan Abbey in the distance:

And from there, back along the Gallop through swarms of runners who have a habit of appearing suddenly - the really fit ones give you a breezy hullo as they pass - to the top of the land.
Looking over a fence, we see the path through Rivendell (see yesterday's photograph) so sunshiny and lush with mosses and spngy turf we can't resist, so on we walk along it, not minding that it's taking us in another direction from where we want to be: I know these woods and know we'll get to a turning that leads onto the bottom track and this area has always been magical for me.
And then onto the track: when I lived here there used to be a house called Marley Lodge at this point, but now it's gone and there's no trace: it was fairly primitive, had no foundations, and was demolished when the last occupants left.
More interesting bits of tree along the bottom track which would be even more idyllic if you couldn't hear the A34 which runs close by:

And home to warmth and food!


Anonymous said...

I have really enjoyed these posts about Wytham Woods - thank you.
Hope 2009 is good for you.
Warm regards

Julie said...

What magical words "When I lived in the woods"!

Sue Reno said...

What a lovely series of posts! Thanks for sharing this interesting and inspirational bit of your world with us.

zquilts said...

WoW! What a dreamy, inspirational place that is ! Talk about mystic energy! Great photos!

Pat said...

Brings back memories of me having tea there with your family no long before John and I married. Remember we had been to the Theatre and seen a Gilbert and Sulivan the title which escapes me.

Love Pat

mooch said...

Aw, you never mentioned that you had visited Wytham Woods. It is one of my favourite places to visit Sandra. I hope that you enjoyed your visit. I find woods to be very similar to a relationship. Only once you know them do you then love them.