It is more than possible to lose yourself inside the wood. Not, of course, physically in a Hansel and Gretel way, more like released, albeit temporarily, from the cares of everyday life.
Often, from my favoured spot on a fallen trunk off one of the paths, I’ve become mesmerised trying to fathom a spectrum of different greens in the canopy, or below. Other times I’ve found myself drawn briefly into the busy lives of flies and midges, dancing in sunbeams, like miniature gold stars in a pool, a temporary insect galaxy.
It’s a strange thing to walk into someone else’s memories; especially those that have been woven and tangled about a place. A place that you’ve heard about, but never visited. Somewhere that means a great deal to the person who told you about it, but for you, who’s never been, it retains the status of a rumour.
The large frames created between the support struts, beneath the corrugated iron roof, seem like glassless windows, with ash and oak, horse chestnut, hazel, sycamore and brambles pressing themselves right up to the edges. Sometimes it feels as though passengers are being protected from the looming sylvan creatures beyond.
A mysterious letter. A secret journal. An ancient wood, in borderland territory. Deceptive paths and strange, ghostlike figures, stirring at the edge of the trees. These were some of the elements that quickly took hold and drew me into Ryhope Wood, when I first read about it aged 15.
Recently I re-read it, rediscovered and found many new things to treasure.
Granville Road Spinney is a short walk from Finsbury Park tube. Just minutes from busy, grimy, North London is a place where bats, hedgehogs, frogs and foxes and more can be found.
Landscapes, imagined and remembered, have always played a central role in literature.
The fascinating relationship between writers and the British landscape is currently explored in a new exhibition at The British Library: Writing Britain: Wastelands to Wonderlands. Here are some thoughts it inspired.