Could this be the prettiest place on earth?
I suspect other locations could beat it in a ‘spectacular’ sense, but in terms of the prettiest? I really think it might.
It’s the combination of majestic beech trees, all fresh, almost transparent, new leaves with sunlight bouncing between their graceful, layered branches; and the dramatic, yet soft, never-ending blue blanket of blooms. Perfectly complementary shades of blues and greens in the intricately patterned light.
As you wander amongst them, you hear nothing but the odd rustle of leaves as an unidentified creature scurries past, your footsteps soft on the springy, composting autumnal leaves. It’s a light so special, you feel you have entered a whole new world, quite unlike anywhere else you know. The day to day stresses of life decompose, just as the leaves beneath your feet, and float away, high above, into the canopy.
It is so utterly captivating, you can think of nothing beyond the forest and you start to see so much more than just bluebells and trees. You notice the fallen timber; full of insects busily scuttling about their business. You notice nodules of sedimentary flint that have surfaced from underlying bedrock, next to intricately textured, rich, green moss.
Gradually, you come to appreciate just how many plant species make their home in this forest, catching sight of wood sorrel, wood anemones, Arum, chickweed and celandine flowers. And you start to see patterns of where each is located. Some clustered around fallen trees, thriving in the enhanced light, some seeking safety with their roots buried deep into the timber itself.
You hear the sound of sheep and are instinctively led towards an adjacent field, noticing oak trees at the perimeter, and new beech saplings in an open spot, ready to provide seamless succession for older generations.
It is beautiful because it is so natural. For all but the bluebell season the forest is untouched; it simply goes about its thing with no interference from mankind, achieving its natural balance. There is no need for watering or fertilising, pruning or mulching; all is taken care of by the natural environment. This is a perfectly-optimised, perfectly-thriving, perfectly-everything eco-system. Each and every species adapted for its precise niche in life.
We can’t help but be in awe of nature. That unaided by ‘superior’ homo sapiens, such beauty can just happen. It reminds us of the miracle of life and puts the world into perspective. It’s funny how feeling so small and insignificant makes us feel so good. As if we are liberated children once more, with not a care or a worry in the world. Rather than making us feel empty it makes our daily struggles seem empty. Empty and not worth worrying about. It makes us crave the joy of simplicity, of no mobile phones or cars or televisions, as per the life of the inhabitants of these forests.
I spent an hour in the bluebells with Mum and Dad this week. We then had a quick bite to eat and I was back on the train to London, almost as if it had never happened. It was one of the most beautiful, surreal, precious mornings I’ve ever had.