Billingshurst, West Sussex: In this wood at the top of a muddy hill, there is life up in the trees and pushing through the leaf litter
On the outside edges of the wood, grey willow branches are bristling with furry, silver catkins. These catkins are the male flowers, and, when ready, will rely on the breeze to carry pollen to the female catkins on separate trees. This avoids self-fertilisation and ensures that the willows’ genes are spread to different plants to help the population stay diverse and adaptable.
I climb the muddy hill into the wood, and follow the broad track that winds beneath the stretching, bending arches of coppiced trees. I stop and listen to the soft seeps and whistles of the tits and goldcrests as they roam through the dark, bare branches and twigs. The songs of blue tits are ringing out, like the chimes of little clocks. Great tits’ see-saw songs echo through the canopy – first one bird sings, then another answers, then a third and a fourth. Tall silver birches reach up to the blue sky, their tops shining gold and red in the setting sun.