However much I look forward to a visit to our Welsh woods I am still amazed by the way they lift my spirits. What can I compare it to? A moment in music when you can’t contain your urge to sing. Finding a fresh breeze on the beam that fills your sails and starts the water running noisily past. A first sip of champagne, indeed.
Entering the woods, feeling the powerful presence of the trees, breathing their unameable smell, tracing in the seeming chaos of leaves the unalterable patterns of each tree’s growth, the cool of their shade, the brilliance of their green, I am lifted onto another level of living and forget everything else. I become a forest creature.
Each time I visit a plot we have planted in the past fifteen years or so I am shocked by the extent of new growth. We were here in June, when new shoots were just sketches of the picture to come. Three months later two dimensions have become three, every tree has added maybe five per cent to its height, but ten per cent to its volume. The same space is even more overflowing with life.
A forest without paths is like a room without doors. Opening tracks and keeping them open is a forester’s first concern. Brambles, bracken, gorse and birch saplings block your way it seems almost overnight. One of the great joys is carving a clearing to let yourself in. It’s wonderful what a neighbour’s big tractor will do.
And an excursion from this demi-paradise? To a true fantasty just up the road, the ‘Italian’ seaside village of Portmeirion, a celtic Portofino with an impish sense of humour. Clough Williams-Ellis turned his romantic imaginings into reality here in this heavenly setting in the fifty years betwee the 1920s and ‘70s. Walt Disney must be mad with envy. Around his crazily eclectic all-sorts of campaniles and Cornish cottages, memories of Portugal and Wales and heaven knows where, C W-E planted every plant that loves mild seaside air, a whole wood full of wonders, and hydrangeas in thousands.
I come home to our workaday woods with my head full of plans that will come to nothing. Of a little New Zealand or a Sintra, a Santa Barbara indeed of exotic shrubs and flowers. Sheer folly. Nothing could be lovelier than the forest around me.