Into the woods and off the map

Dappled wood at Glenan

Sunlight dapples the wood on the way round to Glenan Bay

Most evenings I take a walk through an ancient oak wood that hugs the shoreline along to Glenan Bay. When you scramble up the rocks from the beach into the trees you enter a slightly darkened world; a hushed one. Stop and listen, though, and you hear it. The leaves whisper to one another and the boughs gasp and groan. The undergrowth chatters. Wasps buzz like zippers and flies hum as they dance slow, sleepy waltzes. The smell is as mulchy and fragrant as a botanical garden, heavy with myrtle and bracken. You can’t avoid the boggy patches that, even in the driest of summers, suck at your boots then release you with a satisfying squelch and a niff of compost.

Icelanders talk about seeing little people in their landscape and you can imagine this here among the twisting roots, the lichen-splashed stumps and the boulders that sit, draped in mossy blankets, where the glaciers dumped them that incomprehensible time ago. The oaks have giant girths and gnarled branches. They create a dense canopy, but the evening light seeks out the gaps and dapples the ferny floor.

The path through this wood isn’t on the map. Nor are those places along the way that mean so much to me, like the long, low bough – as strong and supple as a limb – that we’d swing on as kids and the halfway burn with its clear, cool water. In The Wild Places, Robert Macfarlane writes about  people being deepened and dignified by their encounters with particular wild places; not the soaring mountains and vast moors that we associate with wilderness, but rather the small, nameless places, like the halfway burn, that become special to us by acquaintance. He quotes Ishmael in Moby Dick: ‘It is not down on the map; true places never are.’

Vegetable plot

Check out the monster tatties!

My vegetable patch is coming along a treat, and I’ve harvested my first crop: the trusty radish. I should be able to pick some gooseberries soon too – stewed in a little cider, pulped through a sieve and mixed with fennel, honey and mustard, they’ll make a tasty sauce to go with my freshly caught and grilled mackerel. The French and runner beans aren’t doing so well. They took a battering in last month’s gales and haven’t recovered. But – very excitingly – I’ve got a plot in the local community polytunnel where I’ll be able to grow some of the less hardy crops and, fingers crossed, meet some nice hippies.



Filed under Uncategorized

6 responses to “Into the woods and off the map

  1. Carol Burns

    Jealous of the tasty radish, how did you grow them so quickly, we have our first harvest of garlic and have been nervously nuturing the courgettes as a friend lost all theirs the day after he planted as the wind shredded them to bits. They are coming along but some seem to have a white sheen on the leaves – oh dear.
    Amazing that you saw a porpoise and a seal.
    Looking forward to the next installment
    Love Carol

    • I don’t know – they just shot up! I’ve got my courgettes under plastic bell cloches – they’d have been well and truly shredded otherwise. Garlic sounds good – haven’t done that. The other thing I’m trying for the first time is leeks. I thought it would be good to get some winter veg going. Nat’s flying to Inverness tomorrow and we’re off to the insider festival – ridiculously excited. I might even dust down the old guitar .. X

  2. Caroline Freeman

    Hippies, little people, stone circles???Hmmm… You’ll be one of us soon enough! Vege patch is looking brilliant ( all that stone picking was worth it) and you’ll soon be having those tatties. We now have an abundance of raspberries and spinach and looks like a bumber crop on the beans, but dearly wish for fresh mackeral cooked on an open fire. Looking good lady and the lifestyle is suiting you! xxx

  3. Rat

    Funny you should post this…we’ve just been offered an allotment…after a 4 year wait…can’t wait to get down there. Loving your descriptions of the landscape…sitting at my desk in Hatfield with an endless ‘to do’ list and back to back meetings…..makes me want to export myself. Can you reccommend a good veggie growing guide or did the little people whisper instructions into your ear??!! xxxxx

    • Hey rat! That’s great news. I’ve got a ‘vegetable and herb’ from the expert series and river cottage’s ‘veg patch’. Sukey had a really good book – will find out what it is. The little people have been very helpful as have the neighbours! I reckon your allotment pals will have loads of tips. I’ve just stuck in some leeks which could be good. Apparently they’re good for breaking up soil and you’ll have the over winter. I got the baby plants and put them in individually. You can export yourself here any time! A

Leave a Reply

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

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

Google+ photo

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

Twitter picture

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

Facebook photo

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


Connecting to %s