Fields were the landscape of my childhood: flat Suffolk fields with endless sweeping skies. Running through long grass, swishing along secret paths through golden corn, scrambling over stacked hay bales and loitering along hedgerows whilst the dog nosed out rabbit trails. These are the small adventures that I return to when I close my eyes.
For my own children, however, the landscape is quite a different one. They are accustomed to hiking up hills, to expansive views from the top of the escarpment. Not for them the level corn fields and the open skies; the landscape of their childhood is a wood. When we pull on our wellingtons and shrug on a coat, heading in search of fresh air and new adventures, inevitably it is the woods that draw us in.
Each of the five us is at their happiest amongst the trees, particularly in the beech wood atop the hill near our house, known to us simply as ‘the woods’. We love it in the springtime, when it is carpeted with pungent white ramson flowers. We love it in the summertime, when the wood anenomes and primroses peek through between the trees. We love it in the autumn time, when the beeches put on their glorious metallic display of copper, bronze and gold, and we love it now, in the winter time, when the beech trees are bare, but the glossy green holly shines bright. When ethereal mists drift amongst the skeletal trees, dried grasses float in the breeze, and raindrops bejewel the dormant branches. On days like these, we wade along the muddy paths to a secret spot. A place steeped in history, where fossils lie amongst the rocks, and an Iron Age fort once stood atop the hill. On days like these, we carry with us the kelly kettle and the tinder box, a rucksack filled with enamel mugs, tea bags, a flask of hot chocolate and milk in a screw top jar. The children help to light and feed the fire and we huddle around it, warming hands on mugs: the trees high above us, deep in the heart of the wood. These may be the small adventures that will stay with the boys. Perhaps as adults, when they close their eyes they will return to these woods: grown tall but, I hope, strongly rooted.