When I stand at my bedroom window I look across a broad valley to a wooded ridge that runs as far as I can see in both directions.
From the first time I saw the view I knew that this was my home. When we moved in, on a gloomy day in mid December, the valley was shrouded with mist and for three days we couldn’t see further than the garden hedge.
To my great joy, when I began to explore I discovered that the woods were easily accessible with well used footpaths. It was the beginning of a love affair. As winter turned into spring I found snowdrops, then lesser celandine. In March the first shy wood anemones became a carpet, followed in April by a scented haze of bluebells and patches of pungent wild garlic.
The whole area is rich in wildlife. There are tawny owls, a pair of buzzards nest every year, and I always have the company of jackdaws. Sometimes I even hear the cronk of a raven flying overhead. Warm spring mornings are alive with birdsong. Unsurprisingly, there are badgers and foxes, and I have come face to face with a roe deer a stone’s throw away. Very occasionally I even find evidence that an otter has visited the boundary stream.
Perhaps the most elusive inhabitant of the woods is the dormouse. I had always hoped they were there and, several years ago I was taught how to use survey tubes, and trained for a handling licence. After 18 months of looking, when I had almost given up hope, I found a shred of evidence in one of the tubes. On the strength of this I was given funding for nest boxes and two years later I held all the proof I needed in my hand.
As the months go by I will write about the comings and goings in the wood, the valley, my garden, and the other places, slightly further afield, that I have learnt to love since I moved from London to The West Country more than 20 years ago.