Into the woods

Have you ever walked in a wood? Surely, at some time, most people will have. My earliest ‘woods memories’ are of Skipwith Common where skinny, lichen-clad trees and moss-edged pathways ran in straight lines. In summer, lime-coloured leaves filtered sunshine into a buzzing, dappled wilderness; and in winter, black puddles bore icy lids which cracked into blazing starbursts when you stepped on them. As a child, it was one of my favourite places; a landscape criss-crossed with cloven hoofprints. A place to run, to search, to find, to play, just to be. A place to sniff and discover peaty leaf-mould. A place to rub and find scratchy bark; a place to eat and savour poloni sandwiches with brown sauce; a place to watch and follow jumping frogs; a place to be still and hear babbles and birdsong, cracks and creaks, rustles and shrieks.

Jessifer, in Oranges and Lemons also has a favourite wood: Lock Woods. To Jess, they are ‘her’ woods. As a little girl, she and her visiting cousins played there. And there, with her classmates, marching in lines, two-by-two, she enjoyed school nature-walks, their chatter splitting the silence, sending myriad fragments of joy shooting like sparks from a Catherine wheel: hitting the trees and echoing back. Close to her home, the small wilderness lends a shortcut into town. Will the woods help her or hurt her? Will they give her comfort or cause her distress? Find out in Oranges and Lemons.

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