Welcome to our AFON Advent Calendar! Each day leading up to Christmas you will find a wonderful new post by a different member. This years theme is your favourite nature reserve; where do you go to escape from the world and connect with nature? Enjoy!
As the wintry frost of February began to melt into the fertile soil of March this year, I was able to share some beautiful moments with the families that call this woodland near Great Ayton their home. Hours were blissfully whittled away hidden under fragrant leaves and drooping branches, whilst I watched a pair of Great Spotted Woodpeckers raise their three, ever-calling chicks.
First discovering this nest, tucked safely away into hollowed standing deadwood, was a beautiful moment. Wandering along the track, which enchantingly protrudes with the roots of ancient Oaks, a tell-tale ‘chip-chip-chipping’ caught my attention. Picked out between the mesmerising chorus of competitive courtship calls and the ‘meeps!’ of bustling rodents in the undergrowth, the volume and desperation of these constant chip-chip-chips were unrivalled. Precariously crossing over the sporadic hard ground of an unpredictable bog, fertilised with the mineral-filled water of an underground spring, I found myself concealed under the branches of a young Goat Willow; eyes focusing on the location of the chip-chip-chipping. Sitting motionless, Nature accepted me as part of the woodland; a Wood Mouse emerged from underneath a chunk of deadwood to investigate me, whilst the delicate legs of Garden Orb Web spiders tickled their way across my hand. Despite this habitat once being exploited as a quarry, the natural rewilding of the land had enabled me to be caught up in a precious moment of effortless contentment, enraptured by the vitality of Nature.
Eventually a dipping figure flew into my peripheral vision; first landing on neighbouring standing deadwood to collect a selection of juicy grubs and insects, the male Great Spotted Woodpecker dipped and perched onto his nest site. His chicks, still too young to raise their heads out of the entrance hole, frantically called for their share of the meal; to which he so attentively obliged.
I consider myself incredibly lucky that I was able to fill my days this year with intimate moments in Nature such as this, learning who has chosen this stunning habitat as their home; Hares, Foxes, Wood Mice, Badgers, Roe Deer, Tawny Owls, as well as the ever-growing list of Avian and Fungal species, have so far been added to my record of the Flora & Fauna of this woodland.
Enticingly secluded, and abstrusely unvisited by people, this woodland is not only my haven; it is an inspiring feat of the natural rewilding of land once exploited by man.