2018 is not turning out to be my favourite year. My kids and I really struggled to find the time to get all the coppicing done over the winter due to other things going on in our lives. My elderly parents were both ill, so many weekends were spent driving to them, on the east coast. My son was saving for a) a house deposit and b) a snowboarding holiday, which meant he was working all the overtime hours he could get, and my daughter has a demanding job which already makes it hard to maintain a social life, plus she was helping with her grandparents whenever she could. So for a while the wood had to be put on the back burner. We think we finished the coppicing, maybe not all the tidying up afterwards, but to be honest we haven’t had the time to go back and check. Anyway it is too late now, the bluebells are in flower, the wild garlic is in bud, and anything we missed cutting will have to wait for the autumn now.
Over Easter on a beautiful, bright, sunshiny, spring morning, I went to quickly visit the wood for what I call some “wood-therapy” before driving to my parents’ home. I spotted a man in a neighbour’s patch of wood, he was determined not to be noticed – pulling up his hood and melting quickly into the trees. I changed my plans and headed straight round to another neighbour whose car I’d seen parked on the road when I’d arrived. I told him about the man I’d seen, we chatted, looked for signs of orchids, then said our goodbyes and as I headed off I spotted the man again, this time I could see the gun-bag over his shoulder, quietly I alerted my neighbour, he called to the man, asking what he was doing. The man’s reaction was unexpected, he took off, running through the trees quietly. He should have sounded like an elephant crashing through, a vole moving through dead leaves sounds like something the size of a rabbit, squirrels sound like they should be the size of deer. By now there were 2 families having an Easter egg hunt in the bit of the wood where I’d first seen the man, he charged past them. It was quite surreal. A couple of weeks later I detoured via the wood on my way home, as I parked on the roadside it started raining heavily. I opened my car window so that I could hear the birds singing, I heard 2 gunshots and then a 3rd, all very close. I wonder if the man is a poacher, or maybe related to the local hunt, or a gamekeeper protecting his pheasants.