You hear them first. The young make a plaintiff cry, calling and mewing, unmistakable and distinctive. I step out of the wood and turn back to look above it. Then they are there, the female clutching something in her talons executes a food pass, a small song bird by the looks of it. The young circle the trees before diving down to the nest and a meal. the humble sparrow hawk, the bird of prey that you are most likely to see in your garden, but I never cease to thrill at the sight of them on the wing.
Though under twenty acres the wood is full of interest. There is a badger sett dug into one of the spoil heaps. At first glance it looks deserted. But on closer inspection one of the holes looks like it has been recently dug. Perhaps a returning badger or possibly a fox.
During the summer a dry river bed gives away the geology. The stream flows off Stanley moor, in winter fed by springs but in the drier summer, disappears underground. It continues on through the wood to join the Wye at Lovers leap in Ashwood dale.
Lilly, my collie, is fascinated by all the different smells and is reluctant to move away from one patch that is obviously particularly pungent. I coax her away and she moves onto the next set of scents. The doggie equivalent of surfing the web, picking up messages from the other animals that have passed this way.
Like many of the woods that surround Buxton, the trees here were part of a plantation, planted to hide the scars from the lime burning. Over the years it has evolved a character of its own though. Less dense than Grin woods, it clings to the side of the narrow valley, dark and oppressive before giving way to open lighter glades. Everywhere there is dead wood, so vital and important to its health and well-being.
The sparrow hawks have fallen silent. Across the narrow valley I can hear the ducks from the riding school quacking. Lilly tugs at her lead to remind me that there are other things to get on with than simply standing still and watching the trees. We set off back down the path past the cottage of Content. I can let Lilly off the lead, and she races across the grass before turning round and in true collie fashion drops to the ground and waits, expectantly for the ball.