The even-aged oakwoods on the hillsides to the south of Bolu in north west Turkey are predominantly downy oak Quercus pubescens; it is mid-January and there is no snow cloaking the hills just a mean brushload daubed on the mountaintops. The woodland is leafless and lifeless, bare and quiet but warm in the midday sun and small birds sing from the steep valley below. The oak woodland, with a sparse understorey of juniper, carpets the lower slopes and dark firs and pines the steeper mountainsides.
Hellebore Helleborus orientalis leaves are frost-bitten and dulled. A handful of pale flower heads are up but not quite out. The first Cyclamen Cyclamen coum flowers are scattered across the forest floor. In north west Turkey this is a plant of early spring, a carpet of colour in March after the snow recedes. Here in early January, thanks perhaps to a warming climate, they are immaculate purple raindrops among the leaf litter of the winter forest.
Just up the road is Gölcük Tabiat Parkı, a nature park and in summer and autumn a popular place for people to barbecue, which is the national past time, and walk around the small lake. The park is also renowned for landscape photography, especially views of the wooden guesthouse that sits by the water beneath a slope of dense conifer forest.