It’s Just a Log
by Margaret Kenna
Just a log
To balance on
While looking at the fallen oak tree
Where bats nest
In the holes
Left by woodpeckers
And myriads of birds
Hold noisy conversations
From its branches
The cheery lively argumentative sort
That happen in Italy
There is no death here
No need to mourn
The ancient hornbeams
Twisted and stunted
They still grow towards the sun
The wood anemones
Threatened and fragile
Still peep out at me
I will reach the sun too
When I learn to balance
Just a log
Once upon a time, I had a vague sense of woodland near cities being a bit threatening. Walking round them alone felt a bit scary. At the very least, I thought I should have a dog as an accessory.
But one day I just needed to walk somewhere green, so I ignored these feelings and set off on a circuit round Queens Wood and Highgate Woods, both ancient woodlands. I was surprised by how lovely they both were.
I started doing this circuit regularly, always standing on a log halfway round, looking out over the woodland canopy. Each time, there was some fresh delight to savour.
Trees, of course, red, gold and orange leaves stretching out in front of me in Autumn like an Arabian carpet. In Spring, this changed to a vivid, chlorophyll green, so bright it almost hurt my eyes. There was a perpetual, wonderful, confusing cacophony of birdsong. And in winter, winds sighed like waves through the black branches, competing with mysterious rustlings and croaking amongst the undergrowth.
Immersed in the sheer intensity of life of the wood, I could escape from the world outside, rebalance and breathe.
During the pandemic, I have been joined on my daily circuit by hordes of people, striding purposefully round the woods, both with and without dogs. It has become a normal part of everyday, all of us turning to the woods to manage our mental and physical health, all of us realising how vital this space is.
We have all had time to read the notices put up by the local volunteer group, Friends of Queen’s Wood. They have led rubbish picking and undergrowth clearing sessions and educated us to think about bats, wood anemones and ancient hornbeams. And they have made us reflect on how fortunate we are to have ancient woodlands nearby. Around since 1600 in the UK, ancient woodland has developed special communities of plants and animals not found elsewhere. It is an important habitat, disappearing fast and in need of our protection.
I am humbled by those who knew this first. The people whose volunteering made it possible for me to stand on my log and breathe, whose foresight has preserved rare habitats for communities seeking solace from nature in difficult times.
Look around you. Is there some deciduous woodland nearby? It needs your love, care, and support.
Get out there and join in. You don’t even need a dog.
Like many of the habitats in our project, woodlands have an important role to play in tackling the climate crisis. Find out more on The Wildlife Trusts’ woodlands page.