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Woodland Paths
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Woodland Paths

Woods and forests are areas of superb scenic beauty - they feel relaxing, refreshing, calming and at peace during the day, haunting and eyrie at night.

Only size separates a wood from a forest. Woodland is usually small areas of an acre, or a half dozen acres. Forestry or forests usually run over several hundred or thousand acres. Typically most virtual woods are only woods, as the space requirements for a true forest put it beyond all but the most advanced projects with space to burn.

That said, woodland paths or walks are something often recreated in the virtual, to allow visitors to stride through the VR version of natural landscape, admire it's beauty, or aid foraging and hunting in its depths. Larger routes are often used to connect settlements on either side of the woodland region, promoting travel and commerce in VR gameworlds.

Sadly, most virtual woodland paths, trails, and tracks, bear little or no resemblance to those found in physical nature. Frequent mistakes include ramrod straight trails, clear of any debris, neatly trimmed edges between the path and forest beyond, or esoteric building materials including stone blocks, marble layering, or even compacted sand or gravel. Often, in fact, virtual forest trails wind between rows of perfectly regimented trees.

When you look at forest trails in VR worlds, there is usually only one path, or a handful of paths from A to B. To go anywhere else, if it is even possible, you have to wade through undergrowth. Yet, in woodlands, there are usually thousands of interwoven paths, in various states of use and disrepair. Wide main paths, well trod, and splinters wandering off in all sorts of directions, petering out, criss-crossed by animal trails, and sometimes leading to little 'oasis' in the undergrowth. Places where the ground is muddy, or covered with leaves, but little or no undergrowth around the trunks of some particular species of tree; all around, at the outskirts is vegetation, save for the occasional trail leading away.

If you are truly dedicated to recreating a forest, then this must be taken into account, and the landscape created by the woodland path is just as diverse as any other.

What makes woodland Paths?

Woodland paths are made by passage through woodland. It's that simple. Anything crashing through the wood, breaking spindly branches, clomping undergrowth, well, it is going to leave a trail. Several creatures moving along the same trail, make it more defined. If a hunting pack of wolves make a trail one night, then use it again the second, it is going to become much more defined. The trail leading to a recluse's makeshift hut is not going to be long and broad, but it is going to be there, perhaps obvious to the trained eye, perhaps not.

All are made through animal travel. No animals in the woodland, no paths. No people living in the woodland, no paths. Conversely, if woodland is going to be teaming with animal life, and maybe a few bipedal creatures living in it, then it is going to be teeming with paths.

The flow of the woodland path

No woodland path is ramrod straight. They meander. Even when they have a set destination in mind, the terrain of the woodland dictates their course. Perhaps curving to get over a particularly awkward hill, they may approach level ground from the side, angling to get maximum room for a staging point, before looping round territorial border claims, perhaps defunct for hundreds of years.

The paths ebb and flow. At some locations they may be relatively wide, at others, relatively narrow. Main ones may show evidence of reinforcement over the years. Local rock chunks imbedded in the path, or stumps from trees cut down in recent years, adorning the travel-way.

No matter how long the path, no two locations look exactly the same, and side paths split off at random intervals - many of them not even remotely straight. The side paths often die out, only to be crossed by another path. Fallen tree trunks, and animal dens block off paths, at seemingly random intervals, and woodland creeks often require the skill of a gymnast to cross.

Trees spring up in unordered randomness along wider paths, as the vegetation reacts to the light, as it does on the forest's edge. The narrower paths, do not break the canopy, and are only really visible, whilst you are on them.

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