I wake up slightly bleary eyed after an impromptu midweek tipple or three. Normally this would mean a difficult day, but thanks to the London Mayoral Elections, school is closed and I’ve got the day off. I ease myself into the day with a Game of Thrones catch up and a bowl of porridge. By 10am the sun is beaming through the windows and making me feel like a gremlin, so I embrace it, lace up my boots and make for the woods.
I last walked through Selsdon Wood in February, and much has changed since then. The muddy tracks are now sturdy pathways lined with wildflowers. The bluebells pack a heady punch. The place is deserted and I’m instantly revived.
I’m looking for butterflies; sundrenched, colourful butterflies. A large white flutters past me but I’m far to slow to react. Perhaps last night’s activities haven’t completely warn off. I give up on the butterfly and focus my attention on two cranefly, entwined tumbling past me. They settle on a branch to my left and carry on with their… ‘business’.
I lose interest in the cranefly and carry on along the path. A wren darts past, hopping from branch to branch. He stays a few feet in front of me and guides me through the woods.
Birds are everywhere today, squawking, chirping, whistling. I stop by a tree to make eye contact with a parakeet. He cocks his head as though to size me up, before chasing his friend up the tree. Lower down, robins skip around in the leaves. Goldcrests and nuthatches flit from tree to tree hanging upside down. Even a jay, my good luck charm, makes a brief but welcome appearance. These woods aren’t lacking entertainment.
Still hoping to find some butterflies, I leave the path and head deep into the overgrown forest of bluebells. It isn’t long before a speckled wood flutters by and lands, just long enough for me to take its picture. I follow it like a victorian butterfly catcher, snagging myself on tiny thorns and tripping over branches hidden in the undergrowth.
When there is nobody else around making noise and providing distraction, you notice so much more. Even flies become interesting subjects. I wonder how many times I’ve ignored a flying speck, assuming it to be a gnat or something else drab and ordinary. There are so many different types of fly, dragonfly, damselfly that it’s likely I’ve ignored some fascinating species in my time. Bearing this in mind I stop to inspect some of the smaller inhabitants of the woods.
Constant rustling has me twisting my neck like an owl to see where the noise is coming from. I keep thinking it might be the white squirrel I found here last year, but today’s furry forest dwellers are all grey. That’s not to say they’re not worth seeing. I love squirrels. I love how they each have their own personality. Some are shy and skittish while others will try their luck with you on the off chance you might have a spare nut or two. I stop to watch one having a mid morning snack on a bridge-like tree crossing a river of bluebells.
I’m nearly ready to leave, but slightly disappointed at the lack of butterflies. I was hoping for clouds of fluttering wings but have only found one or two while stumbling through the deepest parts of the wood. I leave the trails behind me and find myself in a meadow. The sun is strong and hot, perfect for butterflies. I notice a couple sunbathing, half hidden in the grass. I turn to walk out of the meadow just as a flash of colour floats past and settles in the grass a few feet away.
I lie on the ground to get a better perspective. The peacock butterfly stays perfectly still, occasionally opening and closing its wings, completely unphased by me and my camera. A perfect end to a perfect day. Selsdon Wood never fails to renew my love affair with the wild. I leave, zen.
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