Roving reporter Emile interviewed Ancient Erlestoke Woods from its tucked away location in Wiltshire, England, near the famous standing stones of Stonehenge.
As I speak to you,
I feel the first flames of spring
flicker and unfurl in the soil that houses me,
warming my roots.
(an extract from A Woodland Utterance, a poem by Jake Metcalfe)
I’m an ancient diverse landscape with vast sprawling glades and a valley as well. Right now I'm just coming into full bloom, restful and peaceful before the heavy summer months. I've got a tiled sort of ceiling with all the beech leaves coming out, bluebells creating purple carpets. There's an array of colors and sounds going on with everything coming to life.
Parts of me are like the limbs of a human body. You know when you've entered the heartlands, when you're stood underneath the canopy of beech leaves. And all kinds of limbs are flowing out from the centre that takes you down to the lake or onto the hill.
Now it's coming to evening. Everything is quieting down. Most of the dog walkers have gone because that's who walk through me these days. I’m an incredibly sensory experience, lending myself to creativity and insight. Some people come here to write poems, sitting with their backs flat against my tree trunks.
Memories of me stay with you. You feel I belong to you even after you’ve left my woods.
In the shadows
Since I’m a quiet and tranquil sort of place you’ll need to have a real slow eye to catch what moves here.
If you're lucky you’ll see deer hiding in the shadows. There's movement. You've just got to be able to notice it because it all happens quickly and then it's over.
On some days deer hang out around the pools, at the woodland’s edge. And children are looking across and seeing the deer, making eye contact for the first time - which is always a memorable experience for me, the children, and the deer.
The strange ones
So the most recent happening for an ancient woodland like myself is a strange one. 50 years ago the military moved in and started doing their works. So there are soldiers again lurking under my leaves. But, you know, throughout the centuries I’ve seen armies come and go, Romans, Saxons, and Vikings. It’s a peculiar event and not so welcome.
To be cut down is a painful experience, impinged upon and pinned down, which is not the way woodlands should be.
My purpose is to be. It’s not to serve human functions. It's to be one large strand in the web of nature that exists in this local area.
Ancient Erlestoke Woods speak
Erlestoke Woods was interpreted by
Jake Metcalfe, poet, musician, and carpenter, who says that the first time he ventured into Erlestoke Woods, “it took my breath away, it’s both wild and managed, awe-inspiring.” Jake goes there regularly to walk his dogs and to write poetry.
Jake says to Erlestoke Woods
I've never seen beech woods in spring like yours before. I feel sad when new parts of you have been chopped down and lament for a tree that’s gone.
→ Randomly tagged
Jake was invited by Emilie Mai after a jam session in the woods with Jake on guitar and Emilie on the Tongue Drum, “It’s not easy to put these two instruments together. They could be considered an unlikely pair but surprisingly it works!”
Cover photo edited. Original by Jake Metcalfe.