There is a small sliver of woodland a few fields away from our house, a narrow wedge between my neighbour’s farmland and the railway track – now the Waterford Greenway – and I wonder how close this may be to being a remnant of a long gone landscape. There are not many trees of any great age in this little spot; most are understorey scrub trees – hawthorn, blackthorn, willow, ash and hornbeam – but also some oak. Less disturbed and running at right angles to this copse there is a double boundary running between the adjacent fields, a connecting walkway or bridlepath, for it was ever hardly wide enough for horse and cart, between our lower riverside townland and that above. In other parts of the country it might be described as a green road.
The beech trees along this boundary are of a great age and, indeed, some removed in the construction of a new road and bridge over ten years ago could justifiably be described as venerable as they were of exceptional girth and height. It was a pity to see them being removed. Field boundaries on my neighbour’s farmland are ancient and, in some spots, there are mature trees. I read some years back that the age of a farm boundary could be roughly estimated by counting the number of tree species growing on it. One field that I walked had eleven tree species which indicated the boundary was over a thousand years old. What life has passed by these boundaries!
The little sliver of woodland that I talk about struck me as a possible location for some Early Purple Orchids, Orchis mascula, as it is one of the very few undisturbed spots of land around us and there are some of these orchids growing about two hundred metres away on a bank to the side of the Greenway. My search proved successful even if I found only one orchid but, in an area where they are so very scarce, even one is to be celebrated.
Perhaps future years may bring further orchids but I was happy to see even one and the walk to and from this little spot had other wildflowers along the way:
I didn’t photograph the swathes of nettles in the little woodland patch but carried their memory with me on my tingling knees!