Stour Woods - a place to be alone but not lonely.
Modern society can be a noisy, hostile, competitive place.
Narcissism seems to be on the rise 'out there' and at times, the collective effect can be too much.
There is a place, almost on my doorstep, where insects, birds, trees and wild flowers provide the perfect antidote to the demands
of daily life.
Solitude in Stour Woods. It's a relief to escape to the woods when life gets too noisy. This view took my breath away because of its simplistic beauty and the fact that I was about to walk right into that scene. I felt like the luckiest person on earth to be there.
Stour Woods - peaceful, free and teeming with wildlife.
People are ok in small doses but trees, plants and insects have a calmness that the human world seems to lack most of the time.
Stour Woods in Ramsey, Essex is heaven no matter what the weather. It is the perfect place to take a camera and get lost in nature for a few hours.
I escaped there a couple of days ago and felt my spirit fly.
There is nothing like being under trees when it has just been raining and time stretches out ahead.
The solitude of Stour Woods helps banish people overload.
And the woods are full of 'tiny life', little creatures who neither kind or unkind - they just are.
No opinions, no gossip, no judgements - just acceptance of your presence.
That is such a massive gift and hugely restorative if the social constructs of life feel alien to you much of the time.
Solitude feeds the soul.
When I walked into Stour Woods my soul felt drained from the incessant yammer of civilisation.
When I walked out a few hours later, I was overflowing with the kind of energy we can only get from the life forms that don't judge, gossip or start wars.
Let it be - insects just doing their own thing.
The little orange colored beetle above suddenly swooped onto my camera and sat there for ages seeming to look right at me.
I held the camera close and spoke to it. He or she waggled their feelers and stretched upward towards me - it felt for all the world as if it was responding.
Then I had nothing more to say except, you can go now - and it did, straight away, back to the flowers.
Am I crazy? Maybe.
But maybe I like talking to insects because they are so uncomplicated and authentic. Is that so crazy?
The joy of telephoto eyes and mind.
That day in the woods wasn't a remarkable day for light. Everything could have appeared quite bland. It was the wrong light, the wrong time of day etc. Or was it?
If you have 'wide-angle eyes' and take in a whole scene, not really seeing details, maybe some days could seem bland. But I have telephoto eyes and brain.
I zoom in mentally on the finer details of everything and it can be a very tiring way to experience life.
But my telephoto mind comes into its own when out with my camera. Especially in the woods on a 'bland' day.
Small things leap out at me. Things almost hidden from view are so clear to me and I will spend ages sitting on the floor of the woods just looking.
Nature teaches us about life...
...and of course death. Everything in the woods is in various stages of life or decay. And yet nothing is in mourning for anything else.
Everything just is. And there is peace to be found in that 'isness'. The cycle of life and death is so clear cut in the woods and everything feels ok. There is nothing to fear because we are part of it.
Suffolk photographer, Tom Holden, who is hugely talented in capturing the most incredible atmospheric images said recently that 'nature teaches us about life'.
And he is right.
Who can fear life or death when you have observed that life and decay go hand in hand? And how can we not see that both have a beauty of their own?
Solitude can give us the strength to go back and face a confusing world.
Some people use drugs, some people use alcohol and some use the peace and quiet of nature to cope with life. I am thankful that my addiction is being inside a quiet wood or next to the sea. Some people aren't that fortunate because they don't have places of solitude close by.
Despite the railway line that runs right through Stour Wood, it is a place of total peace. Once you cross over the railway bridge part way through the walk, you find yourself entering a section managed by the RSPB.
And just beyond the gate is an old wooden bench surrounded by Rosebay Willowherb which is covered in bees, butterflies and insects.
The best meditation in the world is to sit there listening to the delicate sounds of insect life, the swish of wind through the tall grass and the occasional whoosh of a train as it speeds commuters right through the middle of paradise to the noisy city.
The last breath of light.
As I left the wood, there was one final moment to capture. For a few seconds, a small pool of light penetrated the canopy of branches and lit up the tip of a plant as I passed by. I can't describe the feeling I get when I see the way light plays on plants, knowing I only have moments to enjoy it and I am the only person in the world looking at it. Then it's gone.
Enjoying the solitude in Stour Woods is the best antidote I know of to a life that can get too loud - what do you do to find peace?