“Wild is the music of autumnal winds amongst the faded woods” – William Wordsworth 1770-1850.
Fascinated by the autumn breeze as it scoops up debris bringing change and the long cold winters. The smell of fires burning and the chill of bitter gusts. The season of change evokes an aura about it and some will love the magical touches that transform out leafy woodlands into an artists’ palette of golden shades. Tall trees running deep in the forests give off a russet shade that alters the landscape for walkers to observe. Seasonal foods encourage harvest and thanksgiving as communities re-connect, repairing friendships, reviving hobbies and making new commitments. Some will find the bracing winds, dark mornings and featureless gardens where leafy trees once stood far from beauty.
The soulless season may be a battle or a harsh reminder that another summer of colour, open doors to the garden, sunlight and natural warmth far from reach. Autumn proclaims a conclusion in nature and a respectful reminder of things short-lived, evidenced through its many trees.
For a long time, Trees have had sacred meanings through spiritual or powerful symbols of fertility, new life, strength and even a place of sacred ground or sanctuary. Across religions and customs, trees have reached out their branches for good an evil, have supplied us with tempting fruits and even sites of pilgrimage. We have positioned wreaths, ribbons and favours on their branches to connect with the past and await the future. In Lord of the Rings, the White Tree of Gondor stands as a symbol to the Kingdom itself and has become a unique and custom selection of handmade crafts and keepsakes. Across all age groups, trees have featured in our lives through; stories, activities, food and shelter and observing nature. As the Spring brought colour to the winter pallet, so the Autumn adjusts the tones as a golden tribute to all that nature gave us in the summer. Our trees prepare for their Evergreen traditions or deciduous passage, as temperatures embraces change.
It was this week in October 1987 that the Autumn arrived in exchange for our electricity. I woke up to a strange quiet that captured the morning by surprise. I headed out to school as usual and started to capture the extent of Natures’ arrival. I was a teenager living in rural East Sussex, often out with friends building dens in the woods near home or creating rope swings over thick tree branches that hurled us across busy streams. I knew all the short-cuts and twittens and for some reason I also knew where the best trees were. Along from my house was a tall spikey Monkey Puzzle tree and at the top of a nearby alleyway was a sycamore tree that was so huge, the house beside it never had the sunshine and the local kids said the people who lived there were as white as ghosts. It became known as the Haunted Tree, which all the kid still climbed anyway.
Things were different this morning. Most of the trees that lined the local roads had changed the landscape overnight. Trees that we leaned our bikes against whilst buying sweets had now sloped over collapsing walls, cars and poles. Power lines had angled themselves in long curves, cradling branches as if from complete disaster. The Haunted Tree had embedded itself in the roof of the ghost family and lower branches had torn through the roof of their car. Glass was everywhere. People were everywhere, standing in awe at the randomness that had arrived. For those of us that made it to school, we were turned away. School was without power and many of the teachers were facing similar scenes.
There were no mobile phones then. We relied on sharing of information from person to person and the conversation that day was all about hurricanes and the devastation it had caused. For us kids, it was an excuse for adventure. It is a day I shall never forget. I walked miles with my friends along closed main roads, we scrambled over tree trunks, crawled under outstretched branches and scaled heights of various boughs just to view the world from a different perspective. This lookout which had fuelled a day of adventure gave me a greater depth of appreciating all that trees had stood for.
The trees we had associated with stories, childhood or colourful meeting places, were no longer there. Aside from the housing of natures creatures, it captured my attention how often we overlook the scenery gifted to us. Among the places I have travelled, trees are often part of my travel plans. When the heat is oppressive, we seek shade from the trees. When we escape from city skylines it is often to reconnect with nature, its flora and fauna that allows us to breathe in new energy, feel grounded and appreciate the simple things. We see trees perfectly displayed in scenic views across the world. During a visit to the Greek island of Crete I visited a place called Ano Vouves. It boasted to have the oldest olive tree in the world and the chance to get close to it was wonderful. The trunk was lumpy and bumpy, uneven and rough. It was not a beautiful tree, but its energy had gotten into the hearts of all its callers as they brought gifts and even money to leave at the base.
Among the incredible narratives here on Baldhiker and the ramblings of Paul Steele and friends, I am encouraged by the many tales that indirectly connect us with so many trees. Anyone with a passion for travel, adventure and nature will find hidden footpaths and explore new foothills, nature reserves and coastlines that offer seasonal colours furnished by trees and their natural associates. We unite distinguished Palm Trees with beaches that we associate with sub-tropical climates. We ski or sleigh through Snowy Pine Forests.
As each season is aroused, subconsciously we align ourselves and our leisure time among Orange groves and Grapevines as we explore in the Mediterranean sun or tour National Trust sites to admire Botanical Gardens. We walk in popular Homes and Gardens that display skills in topiary and have picnics in the shade of the King of trees – the Oak.
Trees are our best antiques and an integral part of human existence. Our rambles, stories and adventures connect us with trees, even Celtic traditions had law to protect them, but as the Autumn calls again, I am reminded of how the UK Storm of 1987 uprooted nearly 15 million of them in a few hours.
“Wild is the music of autumnal winds amongst the faded woods”.