Searching for deer tracks at Hazel Hill Wood

Every time I go to the woods I find new insight or inspiration that I can use in my teaching. Today’s comes from deer tracks.

I know the main tracks that criss cross Hazel Hill Wood well. I could probably draw a reasonably accurate map of the place from memory. In a sense, I’m a bit sad that as I have got to know the wood better, I don’t get lost there any more.

But there’s a whole different level on which the wood can be explored, and on which I can lose myself. If you pay attention as you wander down any of the main tracks, you’ll see thin paths going off into the undergrowth. They are easy to miss at first because no sooner than they are off the main path they dive off under low branches. These are in fact deer tracks, and they criss-cross the wood on a different plane – about two feet high. When you start to look for them you’ll spot them everywhere.

For me these deer tracks are an invitation to go off track, to go into the unknown and see to where you end up.

I followed such a track this morning and it led me through dark pine trees and then suddenly I was into a patch of widely-spaced silver birch pushing up through a carpet of lush muss. The place had a sort of magical green light. I had been to this place once before but would not have known how to find it.

To follow deer tracks you have to go off course, you have to pay attention – it’s not the easiest path. The tracks take you via unknown, sometimes-secret places, and bring by new routes to places you already know. And because the journey is different, the destination is not the same.