The ash copse hangs heavy with bunches of tawny keys that wing their way down on the wind and litter the lawn. These airborne envoys carry a message . . . . this year is a mast year.
All around the house, the woods and copses are conspiring. The protagonists – oak, ash and field maple, horse chestnut and beech – capture our attention by together displaying their wares en masse.
Their tale is one of replenishment, of providing for the future, of fighting back. It’s a gentle reminder from nature of the need to invest as well as to reap, and a warning against chronic short-termism and expectations of instant gratification.
Mast. Acorn, chestnut, beech nut. The harvest of the woodland trees, and a vital source of food for our wildlife.
Mast years are part of a cycle that is not fully understood, when woodland trees yield large crops of seeds. During a mast year more seeds are produced than predators are able to eat, and so a greater number survive and germinate, and will eventually become the woods of tomorrow.
Equally, because food is in such plentiful supply, wildlife thrives too, with those creatures that feed on the fruits and seeds more likely to endure the winter.
With woodland treasures in abundance, why not collect a few to bring home? Create an autumnal display or make a nature table, and plant a reminder that our future depends on what we do now.