Let's start up behind the house where three big beech trees grow on the top of the great curve of rock beneath which the house sits, tucked out of the wind. Welsh nouns, as in French and other languages, are either masculine or feminine. All trees are feminine words in Welsh and the Welsh for beech is ffawydden.
Beech is generally a lowland tree and there are not many around here. These three mark the boundary between us and our neighbours at the farm. I love the smoothness of their bark and the vividness of the new leaves in spring. Occasionally a friend who is a tree surgeon trims them. The wood burns bright and clear, just as the old poem says.
Beechwood fires are bright and clear
If the logs are kept a year.
Chestnut's only good, they say,
If for long 'tis laid away.
But Ash new or Ash old
Is fit for a queen with crown of gold.
Birch and fir logs burn too fast
Blaze up bright and do not last.
It is by the Irish said
Hawthorn bakes the sweetest bread.
Elm wood burns like churchyard mould,
E ' en the very flames are cold.
But Ash green or Ash brown
Is fit for a queen with golden crown.
Poplar gives a bitter smoke,
Fills your eyes and makes you choke.
Apple wood will scent your room
With an incense like perfume.
Oaken logs, if dry and old.
Keep away the winter's cold.
But Ash wet or Ash dry
A king shall warm his slippers by.
Come round the corner and there is an old elder tree (ysgawen), bent over the Victorian privy. In summer when the tree is in leaf you can hardly see the stone building but at this time of year it curves over it protectively.
There are young elder trees all over the place, their blossom used for elderflower cordial when I get my act together, but this is the only one right on the boundary.
Out through the gate into the field, past an unidentified and undistinguished conifer, the first tree in the hedge is an ash, onnen. This is a young one.
Ash are the easiest of trees to identify when they are not in leaf as the places where the leaves will grow have a upgrowing, pointy shape, like nothing so much as dirty fingernails.
There is another larger ash behind the workshop and then here at the end of the workshop is a wild cherry, coeden geirios I think it would be in Welsh. Wild cherries sucker madly from the rootstock so this one has leapt up six feet or so away from the mother tree. This is another wood which burns beautifully but we rarely cut them down, despite their suckering habit. The bark has a shine to it which I love and the delicate white blossom in spring is to my mind far more beautiful than the brash hanging lanterns of ornamental cherries.
Hawthorn then, draenen wen, literally white thorn for its white blossom.
It's a scraggy looking tree, gnarled and heavily twigged. I love it in hawthorn and mixed hedges but sometimes it is also good to see a hawthorn being a proper tree. In spring the scent is overwhelming and heady, at one moment sweet, at another tipping over into a sort of rankness. They are old trees though, powerful and determined clingers to life. Right at the top of the hill where most trees have given up trying, the hawthorns hang on, twisted into fabulous flying shapes by the wind.
And then there is a great sycamore, sycamorwydden (not a native Welsh tree you can tell by the absence of an old word for it). Sycamore was not my favourite tree when we came to live here, although we have two huge ones, this one and one by the drive. But I have grown to love their presence. This is by far the largest tree in the field boundary and in the summer it looms benevolently green, like a mighty ship in full sail.
Under it you can see the holly, celyn, which is all along this boundary and then up by the end of the field old hollies rear up huge and high, a green wall behind the shepherd's hut. You can hear the wind in them when you sleep there.
Around the corner behind the hut, side by side, are a silver birch and a rowan tree. The silver birch, bedwen arian, does not have the elegance of the ones we have planted in the field, the white stemmed Himalayan birches, but it does have the fine, fluttering foliage. It is the most feminine of trees but it doesn't burn well. It flares and spits and is gone before you have felt its warmth.
The lower picture of the rowan, cerddinen, shows its lichen splashed bark. I can see the rowan from my desk when I am working in the hut. It wasn't intentional that there should be a rowan close by but it pleases me that there is. Rowans have been believed to be protective trees throughout the UK for thousands of years. Principally they protect from witchcraft but my rowan also protects a tiny wren which hops in and out from the old hedge next to the tree.
Further down the field a horse chestnut springs up from the hedge, holding its smooth stems high and clear, lifting its skirts. This is going to become a very big tree but it is on the north boundary of the field so however big it grows it won't take too much light from the fruit and vegetables growing in the beds between it and the cottage.
If you carry on walking the boundary these familiar faces will reappear: ash and silver birch, a lot more holly, more wild cherry and much hazel in the hedges.
There is a young oak too, derwen. The big oaks are just over the hedge, in the wooded area and down in our neighbour's fields. We have five young ones though, of which this is the largest. It will be fifty years before their presence is anything like the oaks out in the fields and I won't see it but I hope my grandchildren will.
I have enjoyed reminding myself about the trees in our hedges. It will be months yet before they are green and in leaf but the greening of the trees is another story in itself.