Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Of Woods & Water

Out in the wilder places there is always a sense of peace and the time to find yourself a little more. For me it has always been woods and forests that have the strongest pull. Last week Chris and I decided to go and explore Centurions Copse near Brading. It's a small but very precious piece of ancient woodland. It is also a place of mystery and folklore with many stories whispered amongst it's darkling trees. It's name seems to have nothing to do with romans but appears to comes from the fact that once long ago there was a chapel within the woods dedicated to St Urians... a name which to me conjures up Arthurian tales (minus the saint bit of course ;-) )  Yet there is no record of a St Urians so even that appears to be a name lost and distorted as it passed down the centuries. My mind always leads me to wonder what was at this place before the chapel.
 This is a little piece of woodland that holds within it tales of drowned villages, mass slaughter, ghostly monks and sacred wells. You can read a little more here

To reach the woods you can walk through the very beautiful Brading Marshes, the only RSPB managed nature reserve on the Island. We had never been there before and it was the most wonderful treat, it's a place so full of life! I don't think I have ever seen so many butterflies before, the air seemed full of their dancing bodies as well as striking yellow, gold dragonflies. Marsh Harriers are nesting here for the first time this year, a most handsome bird of prey and we were so honoured to see one sweeping gracefully back and forth across the sky and dipping so close at one point that as he turned I looked straight into his eye! Swifts swooped and dived catching tiny flies and other insects. A majestic Egret flew slowly past, a snow white cloud in a blazing azure sky. Sadly my little camera was not up to catching such sights but I hope these photos share a little of the beauty of our journey :-) 

The narrow footpath wove it's way through swaths of gently blown grasses and green rushes

Across a little wooden bridge, we were rather tentatively greeted by a small flotilla of ducks

The river Yar wearing her green gown of Water Lillies. We must try and get to see her when they are all in flower, it must be the most spectacular slight.

 There were masses of these gorgeous purple flowers all along the river bank. I think it is Tufted Vetch.

As you get nearer the woods, you follow water all the way. We accidently startled moorhen chicks and ducks along the way, they would plop into the streams with splash a little squawk of panic. There are parts where the trees look as if they are part of an ancient mangrove swamp!

Then the ancient wood is suddenly upon you, though the path that leads in does not seem often travelled. We passed through head-high bracken and stinging nettles.

The entrance to the woodland was watched over by one of the biggest and healthiest looking Ash trees we'd ever seen. I tried to take a picture but sadly the sun was just too bright and the photo too bleached out. It was so sweet to come out of the hot sun into this refreshing, soothing, dappled shade.

Following the small ever winding path, we were flanked on both sides by dense clusters of obviously very old pollarded Hazels. The trees and undergrowth so dense that though tempted from the path it was impossible to walk deeper into the woods.

There were a few less overgrown areas where the hazels thinned a little. This old Oak stood handsomely bedecked in his ivy green cloak.

As I photographed this shower of tiny star flowers we were enchanted by the song of a Skylark.

Then we came upon these beautiful and delicate wild roses, which filled the warm air with the most intoxicating scent.

 We found a little spot to picnic, and from there we could see the work being done to try and create more corridors of native trees and join some of the little pockets of woods scattered around the area, which will be very good news especially for the red squirrels that live here.

Then a slow wander homewards, though it was difficult to say goodbye.

One last look.

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