• Caro Fentiman

Denwick Woods

The fields fall away in ripples down the valley, where black-headed gulls hover above the waterlogged grass. The rain has been intense in October - biblical downpours competing with sea frets drifting in from the coast - and the woods are buzzing with mouldy energy.

The sycamores are polka-dotted with tar-spot fungus, inky blisters splattering the leaves, while Turkeytail creeps around rotten tree trunks, velvety brackets splayed like tutus. The undersides of fallen branches are covered in pinhead spores, bark coming away in my hand and the earthy smell of rotten wood floating on the breeze.

The woodland floor is a swirl of ground elder, nettles, wild fern and creeping buttercup. Look a little closer and see luscious clover, its heart-shaped leaves flecked with flickery white veins. Ivy wraps its woody tendrils around trees and trails to the ground, while the hardy red campions are still perfectly pink, a reminiscence of summer. Folklore regards the red campion as the guardian of the fairies, and they certainly seem magical to me, thriving as they are in this stormiest of seasons.

The sun is high today. If I stand and look directly upwards, through the trees, the sky is cliché blue. Soon it will be bleached of colour, and the sun will form a milky glow behind the clouds. Today, though, the beech trees are shone through with an orange light and Denwick Woods is a cathedral of colour, leafy arches enveloping the russet aisle.

Behind me, a beech tree has been blown horizontally to the ground, where it has rerooted itself and grown a new vertical trunk wrapped with thinner, skewed branches. A small symbol of hope: an organism felled by the power of nature, yet evolving to survive another day.

Walking away from the path, up a steep bank where young trees grow at odd angles and moss covers elderly stumps, I discover that the ground is drier. Across the valley to the West stands the mighty Cheviot, while in the field below me a heron communes with a quizzical group of sheep. The air is certainly cool today, snatching at my cheeks and forcing hands into pockets, while the sun dances between the trees like a ghost as its glamour fades.

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