Saturday, 22 August 2015

Evergreen fancies

Just been for a quiet, sultry, evening walk in Leigh Woods on the outskirts of Bristol.  My favourite part is in the north - the Arboretum.  Here the steep slopes are cloaked in magnificent trees from around the world, many are pines, sequoias, spruces and firs from the Americas planted last century.  Tonight no one was there, just one woman and a dog who quickly disappeared back up the large track towards the top car park a mile away.  Then it was so quiet and humid.  The filtered light added a special feel to the heavy air. It felt a bit like walking through a dream.

I love this part of the woods so much because the evergreens are magnificent.  They seem to hold promise of high, snowy mountains or vast ocean-facing hills.  They are so varied in outline.  Some branches drape like heavy curtains, some sit proud and perky, pointing to the sky.  Others seem to be clothed in a light coat of hair.  Their trunks are gnarled, their girth broad, their stature immense.

When I was writing my John Muir book I often went to this wood and stood next to the Californian pines, imaging Muir was just ahead, revelling in their beauty.  There is one small area that looks like part of a mountain.  If you look through the trees you can see another hill, then another, all covered in pines. For me this could be just the smallest part of the Sierras.  Bears could be there, and wolves and mountain dippers.  I'd often sit on the fallen needles and lean against the bark of a large sequoia, which is surprisingly soft, and try to feel just a smidgin of the freedom Muir felt when he lived alone in the Yosemite.  I had one tree near a car park - he had one of the most beautiful mountain valleys in the world.  Its enough though.

Living in a land of soft-looking deciduous trees  clothing gentle hills (which are of course lovely) the pines and firs and spruces add a sense of adventure in far away climes where the air and the scenery are surely more dramatic.  I love them.

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