Return to Tocil Wood

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I arrive in a summer storm.  The landscape is blurred with rain; rain that is like a Flamenco, drumming away the sticky heat.  I came here a year ago for a work event and never expected to return.  A year ago, I found secrets here, in the shade of Tocil Wood.

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This is a place buffeted by trees and run through with water.  And it’s a place of fowl: a gaggle of Canada geese grazing on the grass, mallards, moorhens, coots and Greylags.  Geese honks are like clanging buckets in the distance.  I expect a colourful meadow of poppies, buttercups, ox-eye daisies and viper’s bugloss, in contrast to the greens and whites still dominant further north.  But the meadow is gone, replaced by the construction site for a new building.  I can see only a cluster of ox-eye daisies and buttercups fringing a muddy pool of water behind metal barriers.

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This meadow path was the track that led me to a small swing in an enchanted glade, but if the meadow is gone, perhaps the enchantment will be gone too.  I find another way around, into the watery landscape, through oaks dripping with rain.  There was a broken tree here last year.  It formed an arch that beckoned me on, but the arch too has vanished.

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I struggle to find the track to the glade.  There appears to be no way in, but it’s just a matter of easing the eye into the shapes of the undergrowth.  I push through and there is the swing, still hanging in the darkness of the dell.  Lying right beneath it is a single blackbird feather, like a welcome.  I take it with me.

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I walk further into the shaded glade.  It was always a dark spot, but today it is fogged with rain.  The ground is slippery: thick red mudstone that has been gathered for clay here since the 1st century.  Part of the steep slope has been roped off.  But a little further in, two more swings have appeared.  The first seems to have been made by the same hand as the original, fashioned from slatted wood and rope.  The second is bright blue plastic.  Both wait, empty, for small bottoms to fill them.

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And though my original arch through the trees has gone, there are others here, trees bent and twisted, beckoning me along the tracks.  One leads to a den that has been created in the trees.  A child’s toy lies forgotten, colourful plastic among its dead  branches.  There are ropes fixed into the hillside.  This unlikely spot has become a place to play.  A slightly wild place, the kind we might wish to have inhabited as children.  I follow the path further into the trees.  The ground is choked with young ivy and  campion, there are oaks and hazels and fallen trees.  I emerge damp but satisfied to have reclaimed a little of the magic.

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Later, I return to the woods.  I find the clearing of trees that I discovered a year ago.  Another secret space in the forest that spoke of enchantments and stories yet to be revealed.  I wonder if the heron at the edge of the pond is the same bird that guarded the threshold to the woods last year.  A place has many stories.  In one story it remains the same as the first time we met it.  In another, builders put up barriers and change its landscape.  In yet another, children take over and make it a place of play.  My story of Tocil Wood is all of these and none of them.  I was only here for a moment but I am part of the story too.

78 thoughts on “Return to Tocil Wood

  1. Andrea, your words here are like lovely magical chimes, perfectly tuned. I remember the post you did previously about this place. So I was preparing to be sad if it had disappeared. I’m glad you were able to find some of the magic remained. Thank you for sharing this. Mega hugs.

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  2. “Easing the eye into the shapes of the undergrowth” — I love this, and it’s the kind of knack I strive for! I’m glad you found the clearing, but also applaud your courage for finding inspiration in the unanticipated, new and changed. 🙂

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  3. Wonderful story, beautiful post, Andrea. Thank you for reminding me there’s always more magic to be found, it’s just not always in the same form. Without pursuing it, we will not find it.

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  4. I remember you being there last year Andrea and loving your post ,just as much as I love this one . I’ll let you into a secret …I actually savour you when I can sit down with a cuppa and let your beautiful words wash over me . I even googled the wood because I equally find it enchanting , shame about the construction but like you say it all adds to the stories .
    I have realised that my son may live near the wood , he lives in Atherstone .North Warwickshire
    I may be exploring ✨✨✨
    Cherryx

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  5. Beautiful, Andrea! I like being taken on such a magical journey. I love the juxtaposition of the children’s swings and the wildness, perhaps because many children have an affinity for wild places — or would, if allowed.

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  6. Not only is the wood enchanting but your words and thoughts about the hidden spaces are magical. It’s a classic Children’s story waiting to happen, it really is. You may have only been there for a moment as you said but perhaps your imprint remains having adventures.

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  7. Pingback: Friday Pick 192 – Return to tocil Wood | talktodiana

  8. Hi Andrea! I’d been thinking last week that I hadn’t seen any posts from you for a while so when I was directed here from Diana’s blog I realised with dismay that WordPress had, yet again, unfollowed me from your site. This happens a lot and I’m mightliy fed up about it! However, I’m here now and delighted to be reading your wonderful prose again. Your writing is inspirational.

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    • It’s great to hear from you Jenny – I was absent for a little while after I finished writing my work in progress – couldn’t seem to settle on anything else, so I hadn’t been out and about in blogland for a little bit 🙂

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  9. Stunning photographs, Andrea. I remember this place and your post. So sorry that the meadow is gone. Revisiting is a risky undertaking because of losses and disappointed memories, but there are also rediscoveries, and I am glad that the magic is still there in abundance. Thank you for sharing your beautiful writings and this magical place again!

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  10. I can smell the damp woody smell from here! So beautifully described. I’m very heartened to hear that children still play somewhere where we might have liked to play in our childhoods. It’s so sad when they stay indoors all day and miss out on all the fresh air and adventure.

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  11. I remember so well your walk through Tocil Wood last time Andrea, particularly your arch and the swing. The magic you conjured for us then through your beautiful writing and photographs is as powerful here at your return. I was sad to read of the construction site but heartened by the addition of new swings and the blackbird’s feather. Thank you for sharing the story of this wood with us, one that grows and changes but still inspires us to create and keep our vision alive 🙂

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  12. I’m late in commenting once again, but . . . There’s a gorgeous continuity and resilience to your prose and Tocil Wood itself, amid the palpable sadness. This part especially struck me with melancholy: “But the meadow is gone, replaced by the construction site for a new building.” In any case, I’m glad you were able to find some solace, some swings, a feather, and at least a remnant of the magic of Tocil Wood that you had encountered a year ago. Was/is Wordsworth a big influence on your writing (just wondering)? In any case: Pleasant journeys & happy writing, Andrea! [I love how you found hope in all this supposed progress—that’s what Popshot’s latest issue is themed. Hint, hint. 🙂 ]

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    • Thanks Leigh. I studied Wordsworth at college but haven’t read him since so perhaps an unconscious influence – I do remember writing an essay on the inherent paganism in one of his poems – which was really about how we lose the sense of magic as we get older. I recently bought Dorothy Wordsworth’s diaries to read. I have a story called The End of Hope, that was published once in a competition anthology, but it seemed appropriate for the theme, so I did submit it to Popshot 🙂

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      • That’s great news. I hope your hopeful piece will resonate with them. I’ve wracked my brain and I don’t have very many pieces that end in hope. Maybe some of the more ‘romance-y’ fictions I’ve written, as those always need to be HEA or HFN as far as R editors are concerned. Anyway, have a wonderful weekend; maybe out for another woodland-whimsy hike?

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      • Thanks Leigh – I think Popshot like something a little darker or with a twist, so I think you can probably look at it from a tangent. I wouldn’t call mine exactly HEA or even HFN although it has an element of hope to it – it’s probably the closest I’ll get to writing speculative fiction since it’s set in a version of the future!

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  13. Looks like a magical place Andrea, a place where stories and words come to life. You seem to thrive and write so beautifully when you discover new places. You are able to soak up the essence of that space and allow us to experience it through words. Thank you for sharing such a gorgeous place.

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  14. Your words wrap me in the magic of this place. Beautifully written. I am so glad the swing was joined by a new one. And that much of the magic remains despite the land development that his happening.

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