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Wake up and smell the…………………

Ancient woodlands, hills meadows and commons that make up the Ashridge estate.

Our sense of smell has a profound impact on how we connect with the world around us – how would you feel if you could no longer smell the countryside as we know it? Unless our ancient woodlands and meadows are given the protection they deserve we will only have artificial aromas left to remind us of their scent.

Ancient areas of landscape offer a rich bounty to our nostrils throughout the seasons. These precious natural assets are iconic elements of our landscapes and hold enormous cultural interest and historical value. They represent the last enduring, primary components of our ancient lands, the like of which we will never see again. Ancient woods are our “rainforests” and our open commons our “savannahs”. But increasingly these ancient habitats are under threat from development, intensive land use, climate change, pests and diseases, and invasive species. Current safeguards barely touch on the depth of the problem, although conservation groups like the Woodland Trust put strong representation to the Government.

As volunteers let us refresh our senses with the lingering scent of the bluebell or the unmistakable reek of wild garlic in Spring, along with the May flower in the hedgerows and the gorse bloom on the common. The intoxicating perfume of the honeysuckle in June, to be followed by the sweet bouquet of the lime trees. Remember the fresh smell of new cut grass when making hay, or the warm air rising from the downland turf on a hot Summer’s day. The smell of cut corn and horse sweat at harvest time is but a distant memory now. – diesel fumes are no substitute. When Autumn brings with it the musty odour of the fungi set off by the heavy dew of seasonal rains, it leads to the underlying stench of rotting leaves on the ground. You might catch a whiff of wood smoke from the volunteer’s fires burning brash late in the year.

So when you next take a walk on the wild side seek out these delights of nature and take a deep breath and smell the fresh air, and the scent that the urban dwellers miss out on – it costs you nothing at Ashridge.

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