Wildlife & Nature

Trees of winter

‘Under the Greenwood Tree’ is a novel by Thomas Hardy set in rural Wessex.   It’s essentially a love story, but I especially like the opening words of the first chapter.

Beech Trees in Winter 2

“To dwellers in a wood almost every species of tree has its voice as well as its feature.  At the passing of the breeze the fir-trees sob and moan no less distinctly than they rock;  the holly whistles as it battles with itself;  the ash hisses amid its quiverings;  the beech rustles while its flat boughs rise and fall.  And winter, which modifies the note of such trees as shed their leaves, does not destroy its individuality.”

Chapter 1, ‘Under the Greenwood Tree’ by Thomas Hardy

Photo © Jo Woolf


  • joturner57

    As usual, really enjoyed your post…Huge fan of Mr. Hardy’s, bleak as he is at times…Love the look of trees any time of year, but in winter, the deciduous ones have such presence with their silhouettes, and arching tracery of branches. Already can detect a hint of reddish hue in some, like a Swedish birch in our back yard…tiny signs the seasons are turning.,, Happy New Year to you and yours Jo : )

    • Jo Woolf

      Thanks so much, Jo – I share your love of Hardy, and his poems as well. I love it when the trees get that greenish tint, long before the leaves come out. I sometimes wonder if it’s just my imagination, in my eagerness to see the spring! A very Happy New Year to you, too.

      • davidoakesimages

        Most of our Oak trees are very old in estate Parklands. It is suggested that some are over 1000 years old (reputedly tested) They have big broad trunks that do not sway, even the main branches are as solid as some trees trunks! But when the top most branches sway they seem to be conveying a message of anger and in high winds you don’t linger!

  • sheilabt

    Thank you Jo for inspiring me to go look out my 70’s copy of a much loved author’s “Under the Greenwood Tree”. Just love trees and love Thomas Hardy’s books!
    Your posts are always inspirational and thought provoking. Thank you and Happy New Year from South Queensferry?

    • Jo Woolf

      I’m glad to hear it, Sheila! I love Hardy’s descriptions of the landscape. I always think he used words like Constable used paint. Thanks for your kind comment – lovely to know how my posts are enjoyed. A very Happy New Year to you too! 🙂

  • tearoomdelights

    I’ve never read the book but I can see why you like the opening paragraph. I’ve never thought about trees having their own voices before, but they do, right enough. I like the idea of them retaining their individuality even without their leaves, too.

    • Jo Woolf

      It’s a lovely idea, isn’t it, and so true as well. I think you need just the right amount of wind, though – I haven’t been outside to listen in all the screaming gales we’ve had recently!

  • Fife Photos and Art

    That is a beautiful quote Jo 🙂
    In fact, it’s the first time I’ve read, and APPRECIATED any of Thomas Hardy!! We had to read a couple of his books at school for English Literature, I really disliked them, but I didn’t enjoy the subject back then. But now, you’ve made me think, I might give some of his poetry another go – I may even enjoy it!! 🙂

    • Jo Woolf

      Really glad you liked it, Andy. Hardy was on the menu at my school too, and I can’t say I was overly struck by him at the time! But really it’s a lot to expect of 11 and 12-year-olds, to fully appreciate stuff like that. I did quite like his poetry, though, even then, and I think you might enjoy it.

      • Fife Photos and Art

        I’ll definitely give his poetry a go, and I’ve remembered the book I disliked so much, it was a collection of his short stories! Having been down to Dorset on a number of occasions now might also make me appreciate his work more! Have you ever been to Dorset, it’s one of the more beautiful counties of England (and of course it also has some excellent Jurassic/Cretaceous geology too!!)?

        • Jo Woolf

          He certainly loved Dorset, and you get a real sense of it from his books. Real rural England, lanes and hills and cottages and ploughed fields! Yes, I’ve been to Dorset – lived in Hampshire for a while when I was 18 – so I remember places like Kimmeridge (oh yes, the fossils! – still have some!) and Dorchester and Corfe, and another beautiful little village which I can’t remember the name of. The last time we were there was to visit friends in Weymouth.

          • Fife Photos and Art

            My brother now lives in Weymouth, having lived in Havant for almost 30 years! They love it in Dorset, not that he’s into geology, but they enjoy the countryside. Dorchester is a pretty town, in fact most the towns and villages are really quaint from what I can remember 🙂 I think of all my favourite places in the UK, with the exception of Scotland and Cornwall, Dorset is my favourite 🙂

          • Jo Woolf

            Weymouth seems a nice place to live, especially if you love sailing, which our friends do. I have thought of the other village, with a little help from Google – Milton Abbas! Yes, Dorset is lovely from what I remember. I wish I’d been more into history at the time. I remember the beach at Studland, and the little ferry across to… Swanage, I think. Strange how places pull you, though, and I’ve always been drawn to the north!

          • Fife Photos and Art

            Weymouth certainly is a place for the yachting fraternity, especially since the Olympics 🙂
            And Milton Abbas is an interesting village, with that beautiful Abbey – that was exactly what I was just thinking Jo, I wish I had been more into history when I used to go down there on a regular basis, not just the geological history of the area!
            Great minds think a like Jo, ever since I came to Scotland on holiday with my parents when I was 12, just for a long weekend, I’ve always wanted to live up here! 🙂

  • Cathy Bauer

    Hi Jo, you might remember when we met dowsing in Torphichen there was an Old Yew tree. It was bleeding- exuding sap, and it certainly had a voice. I love your blog and look forward to it eagerly. You have such a passion for nature and your surroundings. Happy New Year. Cathy Bauer.

    • Jo Woolf

      I do remember, Cathy, and lovely to hear from you! I remember the yew tree as well, really eye-opening because I was so amazed at my rods spinning when they got close to it. I want to try more dowsing around trees. Happy New Year to you and hope to see you again sometime! 🙂 Lovely to hear that you enjoy my blog.

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