Recently I visited Deer Shelter Plain with Jeremy Dagley. It is a small triangle of land off of the busy Wake Arms Roundabout to the North of Great Monk Wood in Epping Forest. I’ve driven past it many times but would never have thought to stop and explore there. It was a bright sunny day and we parked across the road and entered the forest.
After walking through a small area of forest the trees parted to reveal a wide open space hidden behind a screen of trees between the two busy roads. Jeremy told me the last Redstart nest was seen here in 1994. This beautiful bird is included on the Amber list of birds of Conservation Concern (BoCC) in the UK as a species with unfavourable conservation status where it is declining, although it still has a big range and numbers in the rest of Europe. I hope that one day it may return to this site.
We stopped to admire the shape of a fallen oak tree which had turned into a phoenix tree and discussed the possibility of it surviving.
Things were astir at my feet, I was told these were baby Wolf spiders rustling about in the undergrowth. I was quite glad at this point that I had boots and long trousers on but even so I didn’t linger in the same spot too long.
Jeremy was keen to show me the beech pollards which had also been coppiced becoming coppards. It is difficult to tell the age of such trees. Nearby buzzing indicated a wild bees which had made their home in a monolith tree. Jeremy said even when no longer alive, trees are still performing many important functions.
I was left alone to take some pictures and to enjoy this part of the forest. It’s difficult to take pictures in a forest when the sun is so bright as there are deep shadows and bright highlights. I prefer taking images in the early morning or late afternoon when the sun is lower in the sky creating less harsh shadows. However I am lucky to have such a fantastic guide to show me the forest and I can return again at any time.
Lastly I enjoyed exploring an area with some small gravel workings. I was fascinated with the way the beech tree roots had grown around the outside of the pit. I took a number of photos from different angles and finally decided I wanted an image from low down inside.
It was full of crunchy leaves. I stepped in and immediately started sinking covering my boots in dank smelling mud. My heart leapt as I jumped out, not knowing how deep it was, reminding me of quick sand, especially as by this time I was alone in an isolated part of the forest. Next time I will think before I jump in with both feet.