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I Sang of Leaves, Of Leaves of Gold
Brown Below, Gold Above

Walking through the woods on the gravel ridges North of the Thames and towards its mouth,including Epping Forest, Hainault Forest and many other woodlands, at any other time of year, you might be tempted to think the trees were mainly beech. Sure, there is plenty of oak, and lots of birch, field maple, wild service trees, whitebeam, hawthorn and other common English trees, particularly at the edges of the woodland, but your feet always crunch brown, beech-shaped leaves underfoot and overhead, the bright green leaves above are also beech-shaped. Some are, indeed, beech.

However, they are not the majority, and as November approaches, the colour makes it clear.

Leaves of Gold

These leaves will not turn rich brown or stay on the tree, but will rain pale gold onto the forest floor. They are hornbeams. In Chigwell Row Wood (a mere 14 hectares) alone there are close to 300 ancient hornbeam pollards.

Ancient Hornbeams

Plus many more untouched younger hornbeams.

In the Wood

The result is a golden wood.

Trees of Gold

Pollarded Hornbeams

The fallen leaves will eventually turn brown, and the distinctiveness of the hornbeams will once again be hidden to the casual eye. Meanwhile, in late October and early November, the Essex woods are golden.

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We walked in Hainault Forest yesterday - also a golden wood.


Must have missed you! I was walking the dog in Hainault Forest from about 10am to 11:30. Most of the Hornbeam pollards are up beyond the Camelot, though there are some babies close to the Retreat path that the Woodland Trust are bringing on in traditional fashion! Lots of birch and field maple and whitebeam down by the country park, too.

Thank you. I love this wood.

My father asserted that you could always tell a hornbeam, because the trunks aren't round: sort of oval in cross-section. Uniquely, he said. I have no idea if this is accurate, but I have believed it - and repeated it - for twenty years. Possibly thirty.

It may be so. However, ancient hornbeam (or any other) pollards tend to have been struck by lightning some time in the past, or attacked by woodpeckers and fungii, and to have a cross-section that looks like it has been attacked by a mad carpenter!

Thank you. However, I can't really take the credit for the beauty of England's ancient woodland!

Some very nice pictures. Thank You.

I would be so spending hours there taking pictures from all angles. Did you take any closer to those lovely coloured leaves?

I would be so spending hours there taking pictures from all angles.

So would I, normally.

Unfortunately, this lot were taken under a kind of duress. Ina is away and has the Lumix with her. For the first time in days there was decent evening light, so when I took the dog out I also took the DSLR, because I didn't want to miss the colour - but handling the dog's bag, the DSLR bag and the ball thrower, while keeping an eye on said dog and helping a chap try to find his lost Jack Russell while fending off the advances of his big Staffie...

Well, I'm amazed I got a few decent shots.

What beautiful pics, of a beautiful wood! I'm sad, now, that I'm never likely to see that kind of thing again (I can just see me setting off for the UK with winter settling in).

I always wanted to see New England in the Fall...

...and leaves of gold there grew.
Of wind I sang, a wind there came, and in the branches blew.

I love that song and can still quote the whole lot from memory!

Beautiful photos.

Avalon Rising did a fabulous version (harp and soprano, on The Starlit Jewel) of that song which always raises the hair on the back of my neck.

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