This is the last chance saloon to enjoy one of the glories of the British landscape – the stark beauty of bare winter trees against the skyline.
Despite late frosts and dampening fogs, spring is gradually staking its seasonal claim as greenery starts to creep into shrub level vegetation. Whether the upturned candelabra branches of the ash tree, the feathered symmetry of beech or the irregular spidering of an old oak, the visual experience of what poet Michael Frankland calls the ‘skeletal’ profile of broadleaf trees in winter is one of the timeless images of both town and countryside.
When garnished with the dark spots of rooks’ nests or backlit by a bloodshot sunset, these woody silhouettes resonate with both the agrarian past and the future hope of summer. And nowhere are these artworks of nature more visually arresting than outside woods, where trees stand as silent sentinels in hedgerows or out in fields.
The recently released ‘State of the UK’s Forests, Woods and Trees’ report highlights the importance of these trees outside woodland, whether in wood pasture, parkland, hedgerows and orchards, in fields and village greens, or in urban areas too. It estimated that there are around 123 million trees outside woods in Great Britain, all of which decorate the landscape with their dark winter outlines. And the jewels in the crown of this treescape experience are our ancient and veteran trees, as recorded by the Ancient Tree Hunt – a joint venture between the Woodland Trust, the Tree Register of the British Isles and the Ancient Tree Forum.
So whether it’s an ancient stag-headed oak or a young thrusting ash tree which catches your eye as the weather starts to get warmer, clock its winter profile now before the green leaves of spring create a different image – at least until next winter.
Justin Milward, regional & local government officer