Woods exist on the edge of civilisation, ever present in the corner of our vision. A place to pass through, but never linger long, nor stray from the path. No one lives in the woods – apart from society’s outlaws, renegades, eccentrics and loners. And granny, of course.
The wild woods. They feature so heavily in the tales of our childhood that even those with the most urban of upbringing will turn the most meagre and sparse clump of trees and bushes into the mysterious forests of Fanghorn, the Wild Woods of Weasels, stoats and Badger or the 100 acre wood loved by Pooh and Piglet.
Even further back in human memory we remember that the woods are dangerous places where children are abandoned by evil stepmothers, stumble into gingerbread houses, or flee from angry bears.
I was walking along a clear woodland path when the trees thickened just as the sky darkened and it began to rain.
Within a few steps the path, or paths became indistinct – is this the path, or simply a worn animal track? Without a torch it was difficult to tell. All was quiet, apart from the sound of the rain and the sounds woods make when you are alone. We no longer have any large wild predators roaming the wild places, but at that particular moment I wasn’t quite convinced. Though as I recall my overwhelming emotion was fear of getting lost, no matter how close I knew I was to the nearest houses.
Do woods waken within us a primeval fear of the wild unknown beyond the safety of the clearing? Those dark foreboding places we have to pass through wherein lurk dangers real and imagined, where the real intersects with the realm of the faerie.