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The Valley of the Gentle Giants: My Friend, The Oak

After a few days working on behind-the-scenes admin, we had the pleasure of preparing the land at our new site on Horsepool Bottom Nature Reserve. The nature reserve hosts diverse ecology and although the skies were grey, the forest floor was carpeted with glimmering springtime gems.

Every sense comes alive when you walk through this sleepy valley. You can smell the strong aroma of wild garlic blooming next to the delicate floral notes of bluebells. The birdsongs add symphonies to the forest soundtrack, with the woodpeckers setting its steady tempo.

Each spring, I find a plant or tree that calls to me. Last year, the lesser celandine captured my heart in its eager yellow flurry. This year, it has been my old friend, the oak.

Our site is nestled between a variety of gnarled gentle giants. Their bark is deep and cracked like the laughter lines of a familiar elder. Gliding across their sprawling arms, their fingertips present the signs of youth. The curled leaves unfold with an amber hue, echoing autumnal scenes. A reminder that all that comes into this world will change.

As we embarked on the task of preparing the land, I couldn't help but feel a sense of reverence for these ancient guardians of the forest. Their presence reminded me of a time before ours. Who were the stewards of this land before us? What stories did they exchange between the narrow lanes of hazel coppice and bluebells?

The very name of this place, Horsepool Bottom Nature Reserve, seemed to hold secrets of its own. Did horses once quench their thirst from the gurgling spring that pools at the bottom of the woodland? Or did its origins stretch back even further?

My friends the oaks, familiar strangers, had stood as silent witnesses to the passage of centuries from their rooted vantage point. If only I could speak the language of the forest and ask what they had seen.

With each step, I felt a deeper connection to the land and its inhabitants. Our work here was not just about physical labor; it was a partnership with nature itself. As we cleared away rotten branches and rocks, it felt like we were participating in a sacred ritual, honouring the cycle of life and renewal that sustains us all.

I am honoured and humbled in the presence of these oak trees. My life here is a small blip in their existence. We are not here to bend or control their branches, but to nurture and protect them, just as past generations have done for us and future generations will continue to do.

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