Spring’s magic in a Sussex Wood

Spring’s magic in a Sussex Wood

It’s time to visit our spring woods. ‘Past thought miracles are there and beyond numbers’ waiting for us to enjoy their ‘charms to sweeten solitude‘.

We’ve watched as the distant woods have been slowly changing colour from the dull winter greys to warmer browns and ochres – a sure sign that the sap is rising.  The first cautious shoots of ash and hawthorn have braved the elements. Spring’s soft atmosphere and sense of anticipation has been growing. Distant views begin to be hidden by the fresh foliage and will remain hidden until autumn leaf fall.

In a spring wood

There’s music in the air as bird song increases. Not quite full performance yet, that waits for early May’s delightful full-blown dawn chorus, but nearly into the dress rehursal at least. The individual soloists seem now to be practising their parts ready for May.

As we enter the wood we step back into a world of peace and serenity. Traffic and the other noises of modern life are left behind. The silence of this place calms us. It feels good to be here. As dry leaves crunch under our feet it startles a wood pigeon which flies off heavily flapping. A scolding squirrel in the branches with its drey nearby warns us off as we pass by reminding us that we are outsiders, the wood’s guests, As visitors we go carefully so that the wood may reveal some of its secrets to us. Everywhere there are the sensuous smells of the woodland—moist leaf litter, rotting fallen branches full of insects, damp moss, sweet smelling catkins, the strong odour of a fox.


They’re out in the woods!

As soon as this news goes local, people flock to our nearby bluebell woods with cameras at the ready to capture this specially British spring magic, our May glory – The ‘Pride of the Woods’ in full display.

IMG_1947Full many a flower, too, wishing to be seen,
Perks up its head the hidin
g grass between.-
In mid-wood silence, thus, how sweet to be;
Where all the noises, that on peace intrude,
Come from the chittering cricket, bird, and bee,
Whose songs have charms to sweeten solitude.

From John Clare’s ‘Hilly Wood

The Coppiced Wood

The bluebells apart, of all the wood’s magic at this season the most dramatic must be the traditional coppice. Sadly few of these are maintained these days as in the past. But those that were coppiced two years ago will, this year, have their own wonder as the woodland floor lights up in a display of plants and flowers that have been waiting for this moment.   Lesser Celandines, Wood Anemones tossing their pure white heads gently in the breeze,  the Dog Violet, host plant to the very rare Pearl Bordered Fritillary butterfly and the primroses.

Each wood and coppice has its own name showing that over the years people before us have valued and used these places. Coppicing was popular in Sussex in the past as is shown in the  Ordnance Survey map with delightful local names such as Quaker’s Corner Copse,   Hammerpot Copse and Goblestubb Copse.


The Trees are Dancing

The richness of a spring wood amazes us. We have a sense of being enveloped in the luxurious green of a ‘tree delighted Eden’. It seems as if the whole wood is dancing with life and indeed it is, as a time-lapse camera will demonstrate. Trees and the plants on the woodland floor move and sway gracefully in slow motion over the days as they seek for the light and follow the sun in a divinely choreographed ballet.

It all recalls for me that delightful moment in C.S.Lewis’  ‘Prince Caspian’ when the trees of the wood are dancing because Aslan has come to meet Lucy.

“Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them;
let all the trees of the forest sing for joy.
Let all creation rejoice before the Lord, for he comes,
he comes to judge the earth”.        (From Psalm 96)


There in the brakes of May Spring has her chambers,
Robing-rooms of hawthorn, cowslip, cuckoo flower –
Wonder complete changes for each square joy’s hour,
Past thought miracles are there and beyond numbers.”

From’Severn’   by Ivor Gurney 

Woods have rhythms of their own. Natural woodland will always re-establish itself if given the chance.  It’s as if the trees have an  irrepressible desire to grow and make the most of spring with “Past thought miracles …. beyond numbers.” Yet another gift of spring has come and I want to enjoy and appreciate it with a grateful heart, thankful that “while earth remains, seed time and harvest, summer and winter will not cease.”  (Genesis 8)

What’s happening in your neck of the woods?

Next Time  ‘May’s Music – the Dawn Chorus’






9 thoughts on “Spring’s magic in a Sussex Wood

  1. Beautifully written, Richard; I was (almost) there – particularly as a southern lad, now outcast in the frozen north where, in answer to your query, I can tell you that today is dull and distinctly blustery. But I have seen a few brave bluebells, so all is not lost!


    1. Thanks Mike. Sorry to hear that you’re still waiting for spring to fully come. Here we were racing ahead in the warmer weather a week ago, but the present cold has slowed things down. But it can’t be long now before it’s in full flow.


  2. A beautiful piece, Richard; I felt as if I were walking through the woods with you. That second photo of the path through the green woods made my heart sing. Our woods are beginning to green up after long days of rain and warming temperatures and the birds are making their presence known. And you are exactly right – “It seems as if the whole wood is dancing with life”. I love your references to C. S. Lewis’ “Chronicles of Narnia” books. I’ve read them through many times, finding them both droll and wise – he has a gift of capturing the essence of moments. Lately, I’ve been feeling that the world is going through the talk spin of “The Last Battle” but it is good to remember the creation stories that occur throughout, especially the one you referenced above. Enjoy your beautiful green spring!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for a generous comment. It’s hard to see how any heart doesn’t want to sing with all this spring wonder at hand. In a disturbed world nature is a very good calming medicine. It would do all our public leaders much good to walk in the woods more often. We all come out of such places much better people. Perhaps ‘Narnia’ has a lot to teach us!


  3. This is a beautiful post, Richard. Those warm day last week encouraged many trees to come into leaf and everything is beginning to look green. It is such a wonderful green too! We have had no time for woodland walks as yet and I keep thinking that this year will be the first in which we don’t go to a bluebell wood when they are all in flower. There is a little time yet so I won’t lose hope!


    1. Thank you Clare. I’m glad to hear that spring is advancing well in Suffolk. Things have stalled a bit here with this week’s cold, though there’s no stopping this lovely season now. Enjoy your garden and the fine views you have of the surrounding landscape. Happily spring is inescapably everywhere.

      Liked by 1 person

Do please join the conversation by adding a comment.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s