THE floor of my local wood is thick with fallen leaves, a multi-coloured carpet that rustles and yields gently under the heavy pad of my footsteps.

On the ground there are the tumbled leaves from several different types of tree, but it is those of the beech that really stand out – crisp and coppery, and bringing wondrous colour to the woodland floor.

I scoop my hands into an accumulation of leaves by the side of the path and already I can see that the process of decomposition has begun.

In time, this little handful will transform into leaf mould that will return valuable nutrients back to the soil.

And as I place the claggy clump back onto the ground I notice a couple of tiny millipedes wriggling on my fingers, another indication of the importance of fallen leaves, this time as shelter for invertebrates.

When the heavy frosts come, this leaf litter will act as an insulating blanket providing a haven for mini-creatures that may otherwise succumb if exposed to the full winter cold.

Blackbirds will forage in such areas, turning over the leaves with quick flicks of the beak in search of the hidden bounty that lies below.

Beeches can live for several hundred years, and an old beech tree is like delving into a personal history; with the broken branches and deep splits and hollows highlighting the numerous storms survived over several human lifetimes.

The famous tall beech hedge at Meikleour near Blairgowrie is testimony to such longevity, having been planted in 1745 at the time of the Jacobite rebellion.

If trees could talk, what stories they would tell.

Beech woods have a unique aura and are such special places to visit; bright and breezy in winter and early spring, but dark and mysterious once the canopy comes into full leaf.

And as the autumn leaves turn and flutter to the ground, beech nuts too will scatter upon the forest floor to be gorged upon by jays, squirrels and wood mice.

The beech really is a true giver of life.