It’s an odd thing that most of us live our lives at eye level and below. We may look down to the ground in front of our feet or at the distant horizon but rarely, unless prompted by the sound of a bird or an aeroplane, do we look up. In cities the tops of all but the most iconic buildings remain largely unseen; in the countryside it is the trees that suffer our neglect. In Cairn Wood, in the countryside above Belfast Lough in County Down, the bright sunshine and fresh spring leaves combined to provide a spectacle directly above. The light breeze added to the dynamics of the vista with leaves playing in the dappled shadows of those above, dropping in an out of semi darkness.
The woodland trees were not all Irish natives: horse chestnut, with its seven fingered leaves, is an introduction to this part of the world along with beech. Beech has a ‘natural distribution’ which includes the south of England but further north it has been assisted by people (would it have made it on its own by now to the north of England and beyond?). In Ireland it’s a bit more clear-cut as it’s not native here at all and with the Irish Sea in the way would never have become so on its own. Horse chestnut is a south-east European species introduced to both Great Britain and Ireland. Alongside these two species were a few English oak and the occasional rowan but it was the beech that dominated here in this woodland.