An all-too-short but unforgettabubble moment in Dalby Forest
Wisps of mist, kissing the tree tops, had long since ceased to exist but dew, like diamonds intermittently catching the light, still drenched grass-blades and stubbornly clung onto cobwebs. I could smell the new day as the fresh forest air cooled through my nostrils and hit the back of my throat. Despite a weak sun, ringlet butterflies bounced between thistles, joining me in my trudge uphill. Vociferous wrens blurred into the undergrowth whilst a song thrush repeatedly jabbed at snails, only moving whenever I got too close or when a sparrowhawk squawked in the distance.
I was here, on the lower slopes of a rigg in Dalby, The Great Yorkshire Forest, in search of plants along a slim strip of unimproved grassland between a mature beech wood and an area, once forested, now felled and left open. A scrawled list was growing in my tatty notebook. I’d admired delicately damp harebells, yolk yellow clouds of St. John’s Wort and the easily overlooked spikes of red bartsia rising up through the enormous amount of eyebright, before I saw her watching me.
A roe deer had rustled just enough for me to take notice. Her coat glossy like a newly emerged conker, she looked the picture of health. Had she been a dog, she’d be Crufts-ready. I’d seen a deer here before, in exactly the same spot, a couple of months earlier. On that occasion, it was obvious that she could see me, smell me but didn’t gamble off as deer usually do. I wondered whether she may have a fawn hunkered down amongst the tall grasses. Not wanting to disturb her or any hidden offspring, I’d slowly backed away, leaving her to her own business.
But, here I was again, a roe doe staring at me with huge, dark, shining eyes. We stood like a pair of statues at a park entrance. She moved before I did. First a few steps, slinking parallel to me like a slow-motion model along a catwalk, then a leap, then two, then three, then to model-mode again. Then I saw her shadow. Smaller, paler, less confident. A fawn. Had I been right? Was this the same doe?
I watched them effortlessly clear larch debris then shrink away through skeletal foxgloves and grasses of yorkshire fog. Like a train disappearing in the distance, they melted away to a pin-prick, then gone.
I turned back to my task but my heart wasn’t in it. My heart was with them, now somewhere deep in the heart of Dalby Forest.