On Saturday I discovered a nature reserve five minutes from my home! For years I’d driven past the entrance to the reserve thinking it was just a field with a few trees. I had no idea that hiding back there were weaving paths making their way through marshes and shrouded in lush green canopies of leaves from the souring trees of the woods. How had I missed this place after all these years?

The place is called Brotherton Park & Dibbinsdale Local Nature Reserve and is made up of 81.1 acres (32 hectares) of countryside along the river valley of the Dibbin, a river which I had also somehow never heard of.

Just a short distance from the car park the above scene greets you. It was this view that stopped me in my tracks. “How did I not know about this place?” I exclaimed to my friend Hilary who was along for the walk. I’ve seen plenty of overhead views of the region where I live and it is surrounded by great swathes of greenery, but it’s hard to put that in true context when you simply drive through the built up streets going from A to B.

Now that I’ve found this place I’m quite sure I’ll be back there regularly, especially since its right on my door step. I love places like this. They hold a certain kind of magic for me though I can’t quite put into words what that is.

Some of my favorite memories are set in woods like these. When I was a kid we used to go to the woods in Danbury, Essex. With my childhood friends and family we would run around full of energy and excitement playing games and making up intricate stories of which the woods were the ideal setting. We were soldiers in battle, we were running from aliens, we were mediaeval horsemen on the way to a castle, we were whatever our young imaginations were able to transform us into.

As I stand in the company of the trees that have stood in woods like these for years and years, I often wonder to myself what tales they would tell if they could speak. I imagine what those trees have witnessed through time and how the landscape must have changed in the time it took them to reach as high.

It would seem that I have always been in awe of trees though. As a child my Dad was forever pulling up the saplings of trees that I had secretly planted from seed in our garden. While other boys would play the popular English schoolboy game of ‘conkers‘ with the seeds of horse chestnut trees, I would be out planting them in locations where I thought they would stand a chance of surviving and one day growing taller than I.

Oak trees and horse chestnut trees were easy to plant as their seeds we’re in abundant supply around where we lived. Knowing my Dad would find most, if not all of my trees, I used to climb over the fence into the protected land by the railway. I have no idea how many trees I must have planted over the years of my childhood.

Maybe I planted the trees in response to so much property development that was happening not far from where I was growing up. Perhaps I was on a quest to counter the depletion of greenery I was witnessing as my home town grew beyond its boundaries time and time again?

I hope at least a few of those trees have survived and taken root in a place where they will stand guard as silent witnesses for many years to come. The idea that somewhere a tree that I once planted will outlive me seems oddly comforting. Even though no one is likely to ever know that I was the one that chose its place, nature might remember my name, and strangely enough I would be happy with that.

Brotherton Park & Dibbinsdale Local Nature Reserve