Friday, 4 November 2011

autumn beeches

I always think beeches are the most beautiful trees in woods. Here in the South East they romp across the chalk downs, scattering dappled shade and a carpet of beech mast. Autumn is a good time to see them, as the dying season turns their canopies from green to bronze.

Our ancestors planted beeches along ancient boundary banks. Their roots entwine along the bank, so you wonder where one tree stops and another begins. It's as if they've formed an unbroken line to keep enemies out of the wood. The pair above, seem to have lost their neighbours but are holding fast to each other like "best friends forever".

What I love about beeches is the sinuousness of their trunks: how they twist and turn, almost dancing towards the light. Somehow they are more light on their feet, more feminine than the oak. That and the beech's fractal foliage, a vivid lime green in spring contrasting perfectly with the bluebells at their feet, then burnished bronze in autumn against a stark blue sky.

Oaks are the kings and queens of the landscape, in woods and pasture. But beeches are their liveliest courtiers, dancing through the seasons.

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