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Forest Bathing in the Woods of Gwent

 

A beautiful Bluebell Wood.

This spring I have focused my photography on new areas beyond my usual haunt of Goldcliff Lagoons and have been exploring several wonderful local woods.

Life for me is busy at the moment and at times the stresses and strains of life have left me in a real need of opportunities to get outdoors with nature. I am fortunate to have some great woods on my doorstep where I can spend some time "Forest Bathing" to detox and destress from all the hustle and bustle.

Spring is one of the best times of the year to visit the woods of Gwent. The woods are full of life. It's like a botanic explosion has occurred with flora and fauna of all kinds coming into life and making an appearance.

Walking through the woods is a real sensory experience. The eyes are dazzled with an array of different colours, lots of fresh greens, the whole spectrum of coloured flowers, Yellow celandine, the white of the Anemones, Pinks of the Red Campions, and more yellows from Wild Daffodils and the Purple of the Bluebells.

Walking through the woods is a real sensory experience

Many of the woods I have visited are quite ancient. In early spring before the trees come into full leaf and block out the light with a very verdant canopy. The woodland floor initially turns a gorgeous yellow with large spreads of  Celandines flowers. They are always the first to flower and are one of the first signs that the woods are waking up from the long dark winter months.

Celandines are one of the first of the spring plants to flower in the woods forming lovely yellow carpets

Golden Yellow petals

The second plant to flower is the Wood Anemones. These flowers are noted as being indicators of Ancient Woodland habitat. These plants are beautiful and seeing large numbers of them is becoming rarer in my local woods. Anemones are slow-growing and don't like disturbance from people at all. In several woods, I have seen a big decline in areas where there were large carpets of them because of people trampling or creating paths where large clumps of these flowers once existed.

Wood Anemone creates white patches on the woodland floor.

The Wood Anemone is an ancient wood indicator


As we move through the season perhaps the most well-known ancient woodland plant comes into full bloom. Our native Bluebells create gorgeous carpets of blue/purple in many of the woods where brambles have not spread too much to choke the woodland floors of light.

I absolutely love seeing the Bluebells every year and it always feels like a special experience to witness them all coming into full bloom at the height of spring.

Carpets of purple - an early morning stroll through a wood.


Bluebells are also an ancient wood species

The audible experience is arguably even better. Just as the first rays of light appear before dawn the sound of the dawn chorus is incredible. The songs of a wide range of birds many of which have migrated from as far as Southern Africa fill the airwaves.

The songs of Blackcaps, Willow Warblers, Chiff Chaffs, Wood Warblers, Pied Flycatchers, Blackbirds, Robins, Wrens and Song Thrushes have serenaded my travels through the woods.

Wood Warbler singing

The buzzing of insects, barks of a distance fox, alarm calls from Woodpeckers and burbling and trickling noises of the brooks and streams that run through the woods all add to the whole forest bathing experience.

My sense of smell was stimulated by that damp freshness of the wood, pollen from all the flowers and also if you know where to visit that lovely smell of garlic


Spring Snow , Ransom - also known as Wild Garlic covers the woodland floor.

This year I found an absolutely incredible patch of woodland that had huge carpets of Wild Garlic ( also known as Ransome). It almost looked from a distance as if the woodland floor was covered in a layer of snow.

That leads me on to another sense  - taste. All parts of the Wild Garlic plant are edible and I must admit I did indulge in a little foraging and found the taste very agreeable to my palate.

The whole plant can be eaten.





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