On one of my regular walking routes in the Ochils there is a patch of woodland where the trees are heavily adorned with silvery grey lichens that hang like feathery tufts and the ground is soft and yielding from a thick carpet of mosses.

It is a most compelling place, especially on winter mornings when the atmosphere is damp and the trees shrouded in mist. The aura here is almost primeval; silent air and patterns of grey and green. I am not sure why this part of the wood should have so many lichens when nearby areas do not. But the reason doesn’t really matter, for the ambience they create is addictive and I suspect delivers an unconscious draw that makes this one of my favourite walks

Lichens and mosses are around us yet seldom remarked upon. Lichens are also one of our more fascinating lifeforms, consisting of two (or more) organisms rather than one. It’s a concept I find difficult to get my head around, but in simple explanatory terms lichens are partnerships between algae and fungi. But they are so closely interwoven with each other that they appear as one.

It is a mutually beneficial relationship where the alga produces food through photosynthesis while the fungus uses its inherent properties to create structure and support, as well provide mineral nutrients and store water to prevent desiccation.

Many of us will also not really notice moss when out for a walk, yet it occurs everywhere - on trees, rocks and walls, and frequently carpeting the ground. It is a case of it being so prolific that its very presence doesn’t register on the mind.

When out recently in a stretch of wet woodland near Muckhart, the lack of birds and other wildlife around made me look that bit closer at this abundance of moss – and it really was quite striking once you began to look.

There was no wind, the air was damp and the wood was so very silent – all of which conspired to make the moss shine out like a beacon. The lower trunk of virtually every tree was coated in its vibrant greenness and soft spongy sphagnum moss dominated many parts of the woodland floor. The moss on the trees had a velvety touch and when you squeezed the sphagnum it squelched in your hands and oozed wonderfully clear water.

Moss is so very important to our environment, forming vital shelter, humidity and safe breeding places for a huge number of tiny creatures. These little bugs are the food for a host of larger animals, which means that without mosses, the whole web of life would crumble.