Credenhill Wood- Portrait of a Landscape

We climbed the hill that led to the top of the land mass- a gentle incline that required little exertion. The dog, Dylan, dashing behind and in front of us, his choice of stick increasingly ambitious- a wildness set in his eyes that reflected manic excitement rather than the untamed wildness readily associated with landscape or animal.

We were visiting Credenhill, an historic iron age hill fort that later became a supply depot for the Roman army. It was hard to tell where the natural history of the hill began and the human history of the fort finished. And it’s not finished, not really. The human fortifications have undergone centuries of decay, of disuse- it has receded back into the natural landscape just as nature has concomitantly reasserted itself with shrubbery and wildlife. These earthworks now home badger and rabbit dens- the land has been reinterpreted by a returning populus. It has been put to good use.

Today felt like spring. It was early April but the last two weeks had produced nothing but stretching grey skies, and high-speed winds, blown and blowing from the Atlantic. We continued our climb up the hill.

Minor gullies weaved themselves throughout the earthworks and conifers that inhabited the ascending face of Credenhill. Some smaller, older, less exposed, were covered with the dead leaves of the winter just passed- a fine layer of moss spreading over their top. And others revealed deeper abrasions- the cumulative force of nature and man. These gullies, whose top soil has since been carried away, were the colour of a deep crimson. The rain had given their surface a slick finish- the clay workable.

The gullies, major and minor tributaries, covered the face of the hill. Flashes of red drew one’s eye across and up.

Until we reached the plateau. Once this area would have been cleared, though it wouldn’t have been an open space. There would have been timber structures reserved for the most important of activities and materials; the storehouse, a means of worship, and the communal- a means of sharing and imparting knowledge, stories, gossip, closely guarded secrets.

The plateau was now home to hundreds of conifers. These stretched high into the air, their height heightened by a noticeable lack of lower level branches. They appeared partially clothed, they possessed an austere quality, they did not sit comfortably in the earth. These conifers are the living remains of the Forestry Commission’s occupation of this site- they were planted en masse for commercial purposes replacing the native deciduous trees. Winds, both recent and past, had left their mark on the conifers. We saw many that had been uprooted, turned on their sides, creating low-level, horizontal cross structures. And some exhibited a clean break to their trunks, cracked half way up, where the wind had been particularly forceful- a natural thinning of the conifer population was occurring.

Another factor will also see their numbers drop, as The Woodland Trust enacts a policy to return to Credenhill the naturally occurring deciduous varieties that thrived before the arrival of the Forestry Commission. Broad-leaf trees common to the English landscape such as oak, ash, birch, elm, hazel, and beech. They are part of the English vernacular landscape, deeply embedded into the minds and memories of those who have spent time with them. They have been a common part of the English tongue and imagination since the Anglo-Saxon’s spoke of them in their boundary clauses, thereby delineating the exact shape of one’s land.

But the hill is in a state of transition. Conifers are being cleared and the native broad leaves are being replanted. The fortifications remain, as they will for many more years, but they have softened now. They are no longer imposing, pre-emptive. Their gentle slopes provide respite for walkers, or a place for children to run and roll.

We followed the plateau and walked down the opposite side of the hill, past the ramparts, before turning west, back to the car.

Credenhill Woods Dogwood #dailyshoot on Flickr.

#Herefordshire #leshaines #dailyshoot #flowers Aware that this is slightly out of focus but the are very tiny and didn’t have a tripod with me. Was attracted to the colours and the patterns of the flowers and the way my camera could only do a very short depth of field, which to me adds to the image. Also quite windy and the flowers were waving around a bit. Like the finished image though as it seems a more natural shot. Taken in Credenhill woods Herefordshire UK.

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Credenhill Book