• Woodcutters around 1890

    Thought you might like to see this latest addition to my archive image collection. This is a late Victorian hand-coloured lantern slide made and sold by W.C.Hughes of London and I would date it to around 1890 judging by the clothing. Clearly it is a somewhat staged affair, but charming for all that, and the colouring is rather fine too - a bit splodgy when viewed with a lens, yet the overall effect is very pleasing and must have looked impressive when projected on to a large screen as originally intended. The quality of the image is very reminscent of the autochromes, perfected by the Lumiere Brothers in the very early 20th century.

    Victorian middle class society must have thought working life in the woods was so idyllic, more a genteel pastime with accompanying picnic rather than plain hard graft day in day out, come rain or shine.

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  • To pollard or not to pollard

    Up in the Welsh hills on Saturday to revisit a couple of ancient ash trees that I hadn't seen for about five years and quite startled to find that this particular one has undergone a bit of self-pollarding in the windy weather only a week or so back. The poor old thing has split asunder, dropping about a third of itself, which is very sad when we have relatively few seriously old/large ash trees. Of course the reason this happened is largely due to the cessation of pollarding a long time ago - I'm guessing that nobody had touched the tree for at least 50 years and almost certainly a lot longer. The boughs had just grown bigger and longer, slowly putting greater and greater leverage on the hollow bole, until it all became too much. If we want to keep such trees with us a little longer it means that repollarding or perhaps crown reduction is the answer, but on such old trees it needs to be done with much care - perhaps in two or three phases so that the tree is not traumatised. Truth to tell with this one is that it is so remote that few people would know of its existance and even then nobody really gave its management much thought.

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  • Talk coming up at Linton - 23.6.17

    Just a note to say that I'll be delivering an illustrated talk on the yew tree at St. Mary's Linton (nr. Ross-on-Wye) this coming Friday - 7.30 start - £10 on the door. The talk has been initiated by a by a very enthusiastic group of local folk who look after the magnificent ancient yew in the churchyard - somewhere between 2,000 and 3,000 years old. There will be lots of beautiful images to see and some fascinating tales to hear.

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  • Chasing the light in the Derbyshire Dales

    Great day in Derbyshire last Wednesday. On the road by 4.30. On the hills shortly after 6.30 & the light was great. Started my day in Dovedale - a haunt I remember vividly from my days out when a student at Trent in the 70s.

    I'd heard on the grapevine that there are serious concerns about the arrival of ash dieback in this glorious ash dominated valley. If, as or most certainly when it does arrive here the landscape is likely to be changed out of all recognition. I had the place to myself at this early hour - just the way I like it - as Dovedale's enduring popularity makes it something of a tourist honeypot from now on and through the summer months. This may be part of its undoing as there's always the possibility that motor car tyres (admittedly only in the carpark at the front of the valley) and innumerable walking boots have the potential to help introduce the microscopic spores of Hymenoscyphus fraxineus. But then there are always blow-ins. Frankly, I think I have already seen a handful of trees in the valley bottom that could well have ash dieback, but I can't be sure.

    Enjoy this amazing place while you can.

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  • Ash in The Mendips

    On the hunt for remarkable ash trees and ash landscapes and the day was set fair last Friday for a foray to The Mendips. This range of hills bisected by several limestone gorges is prime territory for the ash and makes you realise just what a difference will occur in the landscape when ash dieback really makes its mark here.

    6.30 a.m and I'm walking the lip of Burrington Combe near Blagdon and the only soul I meet is a chap walking his dogs before work, otherwise this world is mine. Great light. Great colours. And the sidelit textures and shapes of the ash woods across the Combe are just what I'm after.

    After a couple of hours it's time to move on to Cheddar Gorge and again I find the solitude and the light. I'd forgotten quite how many whitebeams there are at Cheddar. I think I found one of the local specialities - Cheddar whitebeam, but there is a lot of common old Sorbus aria here too, and when the leaves are not fully out it can be tricky to positively identify the different species. I'd forgotten quite how much parking space is set along the road at the bottom of the gorge.... must be heaving in the height of summer.

    The afternoon shoot was a trek around the National Nature Reserve above Rodger Stoke - what Gerald Wilkinson in his 'Woodland Walks' considered the "best preserved ashwood in the Mendips", and I'm tempted to agree with him. Although ash dominant there is also an abundance of oak and hazel with occasional hawthorns, whitebeams, hollies and even small-leaved lime. I even spotted a fairly rare flower of the woodland floor - purple gromwell. Can't say I've ever seen it before in all my woodland travels, but maybe I just wasn't looking for it. Fabulous views out across the top of the woods to the Somerset levels beyond and while I was above the woods on Stoke Camp I discovered a quite remarkable acreage of ash regen. - some of it two or even three years old - all from seed blown out of the nearby woods. It made me realise how little these fields are grazed and also perhaps the lack of rabbits and deer to munch it all down. If this was left to do its own thing I'd love to see how quickly an ash wood could establish here.

    A few samplers for you to enjoy here, but a lot more to come soon, and a big announcement shortly......

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