I must confess that I took these photographs a couple of weeks ago, when the skies were still tinged with powder blue on occasion, and the rain hadn’t started earnestly drizzling (interspersed with stormy downpours) at every given opportunity. Those streams of sunlight seem a world away now, when darkness envelopes journeys to and from work, and on gloomier days it feels like it starts to get dark just after lunchtime.
The best thing about living in the forest is that there’s always something new to see. Seasons are punctuated with changing landscapes and flora and fauna – from crisp Autumn mornings such as this one, to a transition into muddy puddles, holly with bright red berries, robins bobbing on hedgerows and branches bare, reaching out to any hint of sunlight and warmth.
For me, fresh air is the ultimate antidote to any feelings of seasonal gloominess. Nothing makes me feel more alive than being out in the wild – an expanse of bracken and heathland, a bracing wind sending chills right down into your boots, silence but for scurrying wildlife in the undergrowth, the hooves of horses, the crunch of dry, crisp leaves under soles of shoes.
Some of the draw of the forest is the timelessness, and the sense of solitude. In contrast, the seafront is littered with cafés with bright signs, and as you amble you’re overtaken by skateboards and scooters, texting teenagers and men carrying surfboards. In the forest you can be completely alone, and it could be 100, or 500 years ago (but for the camera slung around my neck, of course). It makes me feel connected to something bigger – or disconnected even. Open, wild, free. If you walk for long enough, you can find those places where others aren’t. Paths with few wellington boot prints, fences and stiles un-climbed, no sound of passing cars on distant roads.
People often tell me that we’re lucky to live halfway between the forest and the seaside, with both in easy reach. And when they ask me which one I prefer, I always say the forest. Open, wild, free. (And the birds in the forest won’t try and steal your lunch).