Sunshine, eager dogs and woodsmen in the woods, so I headed down to investigate. Bellaugello estate not only comprises the Gay Guest House, but also is a working farm. There are many tracks through the forty odd hectares of woodland and this one has recently been re-made to allow us access to the remotest part of the estate. Despite their advancing years Bobby and Jenny gambolled along, new smells to sniff and seldom visited parts to explore.
one of which just happened to be the woodsman’s lunchbox! No not that kind of lunchbox!
Here in Umbria they cut wood by a form of felling or coppicing, large trees are left, the smaller ones cut and through time re-grow with new shoots around the crown. The deeper into the woods we went the buzz of the chainsaws grew steadily louder and then as the trees thinned, the sunlight more intense we were nearly at the centre of activity.
Even if the woodsmen are cute and hunky I must admit to feeling sad to be cutting down trees, and it was with this mindset that I approached the capo, the chief woodsman.
Tonino is a fascinating guy. He and his brother have a passion for all things country, as well as cutting wood they have a pristine farm where they raise Chianina cattle, and so it was I learnt about some of the more recent history of the cutting of the Bellaugello woods, it seems the family have been cutting woods there since the early 1980s, prior to that the woods would have been cut by the resident contadini. We walked on and upwards and I was shown with pride an area that they had first cut in 1983 and last time in 1995 and how it had re-grown to a healthy woodland, indeed there was little or no deadwood on the floor. On the way we passed two or three large dark circular indentations maybe five or six metres across that I recognised as former charcoal pits. The ground is black, evidence of the burning wood, warmingly reassuring that the charcoal pits here are the same as in the Moss of Cree woodlands back home in Scotland. Tonino tells me that the woodsmen made charcoal in the woodlands as late 1960, he was surprised I recognised the charcoal pits, I explained how I knew and happily this led on to a whole load more stories, I learnt more about the farm.
Back home, before returning to painting bathrooms I type in the last of the afternoon golden sunlight, snow has settled thickly on the hills, the air still clean and crisp, another photo, fresh flowers from the garden sitting in a jug on the kitchen windowsill. Country life is good, amazing to have roses in bloom in February.