BAKEWELL TREE TRAIL : WINTER

'As the light lengthens so the cold strengthens'

At this time of year Bakewell and its landscape colour co-ordinates in soft sandy browns and greens as tree trunks and canopies and local building stone merge in the muted shades of Winter. Highlights of rich lime green lichens and of overwintering herbs add vibrancy to the scene and the twining of tree roots, patterns of wet leaves, bark textures and the nooks and crannies of stone walls create interesting sculptural effects!

This season's tree trail takes you to some of the hidden corners of Bakewell, through the woodland that weaves into the fabric of the town returning to the sparkling runnings of the river.

Sitting at the heart of the town, in the main square, you are under the canopy of a big tree, the fastigiate hornbeam. This is a native tree so named for its ancient use for yokes - literally the beam between the horns.

Up North Church Street, climb the steps into the churchyard and take the path across the far side to the copper beech hedge. Listen to the wind rustling through the hedge - the leaves are held right through the winter giving shelter to birds and plants. Look around - enjoy distant views across to Manners Woods on the other side of the valley. See the shadows of the trees on North Church Street buildings. Notice the gnarled trunk of the limes on the edge of the churchyard and great energy of the coppiced sycamore twigs.

Go down the steps (watch - these can be slippy when wet!) and cross South Church Street to Butts View - and straight along the private road - it leads to a squeeze and a secluded path. Along this path you will hear the cries of the rooks and become aware of entering woodland. Although there are glimpses of Manners Woods highlighted in sunlight, the path invites attention to detail - rich patterns of wet leaves, tangled tree roots, sculptural tree trunks and niches in stone walls made vivid with the dusting of pale green lichens and luxuriant mosses. Notice the snaky root of a hawthorn on the right! Another native tree, it is thought to have powerful supernatural associations, with fairies or little people living inside or under the tree.

Walk along the path, under the natural arch formed by the trees - keep a look out for the squirrel! Notice on the right a low 'wall' woven of tree roots and the deep leaf litter under the beech trees. The holly, another native, gives fresh green colour and is one of the ancient symbols of the midwinter festival. Its wood is dense and fine grained-used for making chessmen and harpsichord keys. You will come to a tarmaced path that ascends steeply uphill - the Butts, so called as long ago it was used for archery practice.

Go across the path to the iron gates that lead down through the wood - this is popular with birds and squirrels. Here holly, laurel and yew give an evergreen backcloth. Of great spiritual significance in pre-Christian times, yews are native trees whose wood is heavy and elastic - traditionally used for longbows and spears. The Vikings used yew wood for pegs when building their ships. Notice the drifts of snowdrops and overwintering herbs on the woodland floor.

Proceed towards the avenue of low buildings - Dagnall Gardens and on to the main road. Here there are two sentinel cherry trees-graceful at this time of year. Looking back towards the town, mature birch trees stand on the other side of the road, with slender white trunks and drooping plum coloured branches.

Cross the main road and veer right to enter the Recreation Ground, with its avenue of lime trees. Lime wood has been used in the past to make household items such as bowls and cups. The underbark, known as bast, was used by prehistoric peoples for making robes, nets and sandals. The park is full of interesting trees - most spectacular is the weeping willow by the river, near the pavilion, with its drooping brilliant yellow shoots. As you look back to the western horizon, and the setting sun, notice the fringe of trees on the skyline.

Return back to town along the riverbank. Spare a thought for the large pollarded poplar trees that once graced the edge of the sheep market, conspicuous in their absence, now looking very bare. The hawthorn trees on the riverbank have survived the changes, each one an individual! Enjoy the island with its skeleton trees and colourful dogwoods with the evergreen backcloth of lofty pines, spruce and yew trees in the gardens beyond. Back into town now and a visit to one of Bakewell's tea shops !!!!!!!!!!!!

From the Bakewell Tree Trail website : www.bakewell-trees.org