Basil took me for a walk on the scrubby heathland around his monastery. Up until 1914 it was mostly heather, with hardly any trees, because it was common grazing land. When the grazing stopped trees grew, in a fascinating, self seeded, mix.

Oaks and sweet chestnuts on the patches of clay that hold water and nutrients. Scots pine and larch in dense clumps, some quite large, presumably on the better sandy soil; and birch on the worst of the free draining sand. 

The birch is my favourite tree. I always associate it with my mother’s home in Finland, more so than any pine. I love the way it looks. The way it simmers and lets the light through in full leaf. The way the bark turns from grey, to white, to mottled as it grows. The way the branch tips turn red before the lime green leaf buds appear ( more obvious in Finland than England); but most of all for the way it adds variety to areas that might otherwise be bare.