I went for a walk down the Avenue of Trees today. I entered through the old iron gates leading through from Acklam road and almost immediately left the traffic and relentless noise of the town behind. I have a favourite path. Usually I walk along the grass next to where the school used to be (now demolished). The remaining fence is covered with shrubs and in the summer, (before spraying) a variety of climbing plants abide there. The woodland with its variety of trees and wildflowers is on the other side of the grass. There is much hawthorn at this end, ablaze with white and pink flowers in the summer, berries at this time of year. I don’t stick to the grassed area, but cut in and out along the small tracks. Tracks maintained by the many walkers who use this area, but made by the tread of generations of people before as they too have criss- crossed their way between grass and woodland. There’s a particular oak tree that I like to see and this takes me along the woodland track into an area that opens out, which, if the sun is favourable, is illuminated with a warm, golden light. If the sky is blue, the conifers are well worth a look too. Seen silhouetted against a bright sky they give me a feeling of being somewhere Mediterranean. I know this path well, but today I chose a different route and walked along the woodland path at the other side.
The colourful display of autumn had passed and yet the fallen leaves held their beauty in shades of brown and the glisten of water. There had been some rain earlier and it struck me how even on a gloomy December day like this, the Avenue of Trees was, as always, stunningly beautiful. At first it was difficult to find the track as so many leaves had fallen, but soon I did and wound my way through the trees, past the iron sculptures made by the schoolchildren years ago and past the fallen branches, their strong sculptural shapes adding drama to the scene. The rich green of moss clung to the tree roots and reminded me that there was still colour here. On looking at the ground more closely I could see the last remaining traces of the reds, greens and golds that had been there in abundance such a short time ago. There wasn’t much wildlife to be seen on this damp winter’s day, but it was there, hiding in the undergrowth, or high in the canopy, or sleeping the winter away, waiting for warmer times. No blackbird’s song to follow me today. So different from the summertime when the whole wood is alive with birdsong. At the end of the path I went onto the central grass and walked past the rows of lime trees, their branches easy to touch, hanging low, almost to the ground, the sweet scent of their tiny flowers only a memory now, replaced by the invigorating earthy scents of winter… and it occurred to me;
On any day, in any weather, in any season, a walk down the Avenue of Trees is a welcome connection with the natural world. It is peaceful and calming and full of ‘glad to be alive’. People need places like this.
Middlesbrough needs places like this.