DOWN by the River Devon there is a fallen beech tree of such massive girth that it must have made a most striking impression upon the landscape before it tumbled to the ground a couple of decades or so ago.

A mere shadow of its former self, this tree lies by the riverbank like a brooding hulk, its remnant skeletal branches pointing heavenwards as if in a plea for salvation.

I adore this tree and visit it often because its death has brought fortune to others in the natural world, and as I run my hands over its decaying trunk, I can almost feel the pulse of life within.

I look closer and can see numerous tiny holes in the smooth bark made by boring insects and other invertebrates, a place to feed, seek shelter and to lay eggs.

A place, too, for woodpeckers to probe and inspect with eager anticipation.

But for me it is the fungi that are the biggest draw, and each time I examine this fallen Goliath, there is something new glistening upon its surface, ranging from the tiny orange specks of coral spot fungus to much larger oyster mushrooms that cling in tiers to the crumbling bark.

Often, I find olive oysterling and wrinkled crust fungi. It is an island of life, a nature reserve in its own right.

I find this life after death somehow reassuring, a tonic which makes me respect beeches all the more, for they are undoubtedly one of our most impressive trees, and no more so than in autumn when their leaves turn a delicious, burnished copper, almost as if toasted over a fire.

The life within this fallen beech also serves as a reminder that the numerous trees tumbled by the recent Storm Arwen are not the tragedy as one might think.

Indeed, the reality is quite the opposite, for deadwood forms an incredibly important habitat for our wildlife.

As well as the sheer diversity of life within the deadwood, it also plays an ecologically important role in carbon capture and in the soil nutrient cycle, slowly releasing nitrogen back into the environment.

The deadwood is as vital to the health of a woodland ecosystem as is a living tree with the multitude of species that depend upon it for life.