Flamboyant or Reserved
Boot Wood cannot be described as flamboyant. Nor can it claim to be reserved as, unlike Castle Eden Dean, it has not acquired the status of a North-East Natural Nature Reserve.
The noises in the wood are not loud, but the modern world makes its presence felt by the hum of speeding traffic, the whine of aircraft overhead and even the rumble of a far off train.
On a windy day in March, the eerie creaks of rubbing branches interspersed with the rattle of last year's ash keys are more modest. Brash however is the blackbird's warning protest cry at your intrusion into its realm. And if the clatter of wood pigeons' flight does not make you jump, you cannot but be impressed by the exuberant territorial call of the cock pheasant, celebrating his escape from the last of winter's February shoots. Brightly coloured and showy, he struts his stuff while his harem of hens are more reserved with dull plumage that you only see when they are brave enough to venture out into the stubble fields.
At this time of year, the colours of the wood are subdued, with holly and ivy-covered ash providing a green and pale tan backdrop against a clear blue sky. There are no hints of flowers yet to come as the leggy snowdrops have passed their best, with only three lonely daffodils looking lost against the brown carpet of horse chestnut leaves. A few white violets tinged with blue are trying to make an impression of flamboyance; it will be a while before the white blooms of the spreading chestnut confidently stake a showy claim for dominance. There certainly is no hint of bright red flowers as can be seen on Madagascan trees.
Smooth and patterned trunks of different shades of green and grey and brown give away the ages of the trees, none of which are old enough to be on an ancient woodland inventory. Boot Wood would rather be reserved or better still preserved, even although it has not reached a stage where preservation orders protect it or its trees. It contains no footpaths or bridle ways thus confirming Byron's words that "There is a pleasure in pathless woods".
Of modest size, under two hectares, Boot Wood was planted in the 1880s beside what was then a turnpike road, from which stagecoach passengers could take a rest at the nearby Crown. It seems unlikely that they would have graced the wood in their flamboyant finery. Now man has marked his presence by the litter left which demonstrates the fast food and careless culture of today. Discarded traffic cones, plastic ‘skull-caps' and a yellow traffic lamp betray completed road works on the road that has turned from pike to ‘A'. Tall Trees name-bands have been jettisoned from among the glitz on the bejewelled wrists of flashy and ostentatious nightclub guests. Do you still want to be flamboyant or reserved?
What of the wood? It may not wish to be compared to a cold French gothic stone traced with static waves and ornate decoration; its tree tops can create a moving wave of living greenery; but wait until its vibrant hues of autumn and the vivid shades of red of hips and haws proclaim that it would be proud to be both flamboyant and reserved