The Forest is Changing…

The landscape and trees of Epping Forest are always changing. Seasonal changes are the most obvious and I’m sure I’m not alone in looking forward to the vibrant colours that are coming with the Autumn. Sadly there are also physical changes to some of the veteran and ancient trees. Two of the trees that I photographed for my ancient trees exhibition have been affected so far.

The first being this Beech Tree at Flagstaff Hill (print number S13):

S13 Beech Tree, Flagstaff Hill

As you can see a couple of huge branches from this lapsed pollard collapsed under their own weight.  This picture gives some idea of the size of the tree and how big these branches are, each one is effectively the size of another tree. The picture below shows its discovery by the people attending the Ancient Tree Forum Conference during a field visit.

Web 72 -_DSC3412 (c) Marion SidebottomThe second tree which is a beautiful old oak at Barn Hoppitt (print number S21) was affected by a deliberate arson attack a few weeks ago.  This is one of the locals favourite trees in the forest and there was disgust and outrage on social media when this happened.  Here is my portrait of it from the exhibition.

S21 Oak, Barn Hoppitt

I have photographed this tree many times and returned last week to see if it had sustained much damage.  I believe the London Fire Brigade got to the scene very quickly and this popular tree was saved.  When I arrived I could still smell the burn’t wood from the fire two week earlier.

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Thankfully it didn’t look too affected by this trauma.  I noticed a branch missing and it’s  remains in a pile nearby but it must have already been dead and was breaking down.   I also saw a couple of its large exposed roots had been damaged and a few had scrapes on them, maybe this was due to trampling whilst it was being saved.

Web-_DSC4105 (c) Marion Sidebottom I peered inside the tree to check the damage.

Web-_DSC4120 (c) Marion SidebottomIt was a little charred in places but thankfully not too extreme.

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As an artist you can find beauty in everything and a small piece of charred ancient wood is no exception, despite the circumstances in which it was created.

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I spent an hour with this tree and whilst there it was dropping its huge acorns, two of which landed on my head.  I filled my pockets and imagined that the tree was signalling to me to plant the next generation after its recent scare.  Following instructions I found on the internet I have now planted the acorns in pots and hopefully they will go through the stratification (hibernation) process and if I’m lucky they might pop up next spring.

So now I’m looking forward to photographing the forest in its Autumnal colours whilst collecting my tree stories.

 

 

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Up High on Pole Hill with the Conservation Arborists

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At the beginning of August 2017 I spent a day observing and photographing the Conservation Arborists working at Pole Hill in Epping Forest.

What is a Conservation Arborist/Arboriculturalist?

In Epping Forest there are 3 teams of Conservation Arborists with a Senior Conservation Officer in each team.

An Arborist is much more than a person with a chainsaw who removes dead branches.  An Arborist climber is a professional tree surgeon and to become one is no mean feat. They are highly skilled and have spent years learning and putting this in practice. It’s physically and mentally demanding and involves working in all weathers in a difficult environment.  Safety has to be their topmost priority as it is a dangerous occupation so teamwork is vital.

A Conservation Arboriculturalist has another string to their bow in that they view tree, woodland pasture and forest management by taking into consideration the biodiversity of the tree and its surrounding ecosystem.  I have met many different Conservation Arboriculturalists through my work and they all have one thing in common, a passion for the natural sciences and trees.  Not all are tree climbers and many have different specialisms such as bats, fungi, invertebrates, soils or different tree species, but all have the same ultimate aim which is to conserve and manage the health of trees. Public safety is also taken into consideration but trees are not removed or cut unnecessarily unless they pose a significant hazard which cannot be remedied by alternative means.

The Day’s Events

So, back to my very interesting day. I met the team Gavin, Tom & Colin at the Warren and travelled with them and their equipment to Pole Hill.

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The area was cordoned off for public safety due to falling branches and dangerous equipment

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Meet the MEWP (Mobile Elevating Work Platform). It can be controlled remotely and moved around uneven terrain

 

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I was taken through their Health & Safety Procedures and shown the equipment they were use.  I noticed on the H&S form that I was one of the potential hazards for the day!

Web 72 -_DSC3477 (c) Marion Sidebottom

Web 72 -_DSC9437 (c) Marion SidebottomI was lucky enough to be taken up to the full height of the MEWP to 100ft so I could see right across the forest canopy and parts of London. I think they were really trying to find out if I had a head for heights and could cope for the day.  I was so distracted by the view and taking photographs that I didn’t get any vertigo at all.  After this the real work began and I spent a few hours photographing two different arborists from the MEWP which was quite a unique experience.

 

Pollarding in Epping Forest

The purpose of the work on this day was the crown reduction of some hornbeam trees. This is a managed and gradual repollarding of lapsed hornbeam pollards as part of a 10 year wood pasture restoration project in Epping Forest.

Pollarding is where tree branches are lopped back out of the reach of browsing animals and the new wood growth can be harvested on a regular cycle without destroying the tree.  This has been done successfully for centuries and in the past created a wood supply for London. A ‘lapsed pollard’ is where the original pollard has not been cut on a regular cycle. After the Epping Forest Act in 1878 pollarding ceased in Epping Forest so there are many veteran ‘lapsed’ pollards within the forest, mostly Beech and Hornbeam which have become top heavy.  These veteran trees make the forest a unique place for biodiversity and is why it has been designated a SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) and a SAC (Special Area of Conservation). New pollarding of younger trees is being done in Epping Forest to maintain the landscape and some of the veteran lapsed pollards have crown reductions to reduce the risk of them splitting from bearing so much weight and to extend their life. You can find out more about veteran trees and pollards in Epping Forest here.  Dr Jeremy Dagley, the Head of Conservation has done extensive research and written many papers on pollarding in Epping Forest.

 

 

 

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Sequence of 6 images to show how physically demanding this job can be (and occasionally a little fun!)

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We were lucky with the weather during the climbing but the rain didn’t stop play later, lunch was eaten under a canopy and the branches & logs were chipped and the area cleared during the afternoon summer rain.

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Thank you so much to the team for allowing me to observe, photograph you and record  your interesting tree story.

The full gallery of images of this tree story can be found on my website here

 “Conservation Arboriculture, while being informed by the natural sciences, also draws from cultural traditions, the humanities, arts and other sciences, to develop a holistic approach to tree management’. (Neville Fay). Click here for full article.

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24th July 2017 – Thank you!

C6 Tree Canopy, Dulsmead Hollow

I would like to say a huge thank you to all those people who attended my ‘Ancient Trees of Epping Forest’ exhibition during July at the Queen Elizabeth Hunting Lodge.  I had some very positive feedback and enjoyed showing people around.  I could not have asked for a more beautiful and apt location to display my work, a Tudor hunting lodge, made from ancient oak with incredible views over the forest.

S27 Dulsmead Hollow

I asked if visitors preferred the sepia Gothic ‘mugshots’ of the trees on the first floor or the Beech Trees in Spring Colour on the second floor.  The views were very mixed with some people not being able to decide between the two collections.  The collections are now all on my website here and are available to order as limited edition fine art prints.

If you would like to join my mailing list for project updates you can do so here

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5th July 2017 Exhibition is Almost here!

It has been a hectic few weeks but I am almost ready for my first solo photographic exhibition of the Ancient Trees of Epping Forest. Over the next few days I shall be mounting and framing my work and laying out the final hanging plan.

Invite General & Flyer

The exhibition is set in the Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge which is a beautiful Tudor building set on three floors with stunning views over the forest. It is located next to The View Visitor Centre and Museum, 8 Rangers Road, London E4 7QH. There is plenty of parking and places to get refreshments next door. You could make a day of it and go for a lovely walk in the forest, I find it a truly beautiful and inspiring place.

As you may know I have been working there as Artist-in-Residence on a project since April in partnership with the City of London Epping Forest and supported by Arts Council England funding.

I will be present at the exhibition on Saturday between 11am and 4pm and Sunday afternoon if you want a tour round or chat about the project.

Here is a link to the  The View Visitor Centre

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Beeches of Flagstaff Hill in Epping Forest

Back in April I was introduced to ‘Big Bill’ which is an important keystone tree at
Flagstaff Hill, near High Beech in Epping Forest. This is an impressive tall and straight pollarded Beech which is used for training arborists in climbing and health and safety.

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Big Bill at Flagstaff Hill

Although the picture gives no sense of scale, the tree’s impressive height can be inferred  as it was taken in April and the tallest branches are visible before it came into leaf.   I really must put more people in my tree pictures for scale and historical context but I often prefer just the tree. The next image shows what can happen to top heavy lapsed pollards in severe weather which unfortunately is a common scene all around Epping Forest.  This one is completely hollow and blackened from the Brittle Cinder Fungus (Kretzschmaria deusta). Part of the tree is still alive and may survive for a few years to come, although I’m not sure what it’s life span will be with this fungus inside it.

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Lapsed Pollard with fallen limbs and Brittle Cinder Fungus

Beech trees grow in all shapes and sizes but always with shallow roots. I like the shape and balance of this girthy tree below which looks like it has twisted as it has grown. It is scarred with age and has missing branches which tell the story of it’s life.Web 72 -_DSC5624-Edit(c) Marion Sidebottom

Twisted Beech tree

The next two are character trees, this first one reminds me of a Chinese Lion Guardian sitting on its haunches like the ones seen guarding restaurants in China town.

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Beech tree resembling a Chinese Lion Guardian

The second one below resembles a self-important person with an aloof and pointy turned up nose and a long neck.

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Rather aloof Beech tree

Lastly I was attracted to the colours and textures of this decaying trunk which still has a useful role to play in nature as it gradually breaks down and decays back into the earth.Web 72 -_DSC5699-Edit(c) Marion Sidebottom

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Search for the Aeroplane Tree on Pole Hill

This week I met with a lady called Cheryl at Pole Hill who used to play there as a child in the 1960s.  Pole Hill is in Chingford and sits on the border between Greater London and Essex in line with the Greenwich Meridian. She had so many interesting stories to tell including tales about riding their bikes around the tracks, picnicing and even a rumour that her Aunt used to deliver milk to Lawrence of Arabia who once lived there. We searched for a special tree she called the ‘Aeroplane Tree’ that grew on the slant so you could easily climb it and spread out your arms as if you were flying.  She last saw it about 10 years ago but sadly there is just a stump where it was located.  She also told me about her Great Grandfather who was on the committee to get the Forest Act through in 1878. Cheryl also cares deeply about what happens to the forest which obviously runs in her family.  I am saving the full story to go in my Epping Forest Storybook which I will be starting soon.

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Quirky Oaks with exposed roots at Pole Hill, Epping Forest

The whole place is full of hills and dips which Cheryl and her friends named ‘The Dips’. I can just imagine them whizzing around and up and down them on their bikes, it still looks like it could be great fun.

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The Dips at Pole Hill, Epping Forest

I met some dog walkers who come to the same place everyday to let their dogs play with, jump and bite a wooden swing which hangs from an old hornbeam tree.  The dogs came rushing over the hill in excitement but were a bit wary to see me with my tripod and camera in their usual play spot. As you can see I soon got out of the way quite quickly so they could get on with their fun.

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Dogs at play on Pole Hill

At the top of Pole Hill is a nice location for quiet contemplation with stunning views overlooking the City from the forest. In the distance you can see the Post Office Tower.

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View across London from the top of Pole Hill

Whilst there I saw a boy catching Pokemon on his phone whilst his mum waited anxiously at the bottom of the hill, great to see kids out and about in whatever capacity. Lastly this was one of my favourite veteran oak trees on Pole Hill, it looks like it could almost get up and walk away.

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Oak Tree at Pole Hill with exposed roots

 

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Deer Shelter Plain

Recently I visited Deer Shelter Plain with Jeremy Dagley.  It is a small triangle of land off of the busy Wake Arms Roundabout to the North of Great Monk Wood in Epping Forest. I’ve driven past it many times but would never have thought to stop and explore there. It was a bright sunny day and we parked across the road and entered the forest.

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Holly Sapling growing out of a tree trunk

After walking through a small area of forest the trees parted to reveal a wide open space hidden behind a screen of trees between the two busy roads. Jeremy told me the last Redstart nest was seen here in 1994. This beautiful bird is included on the Amber list of birds of Conservation Concern (BoCC) in the UK as a species with unfavourable conservation status where it is declining, although it still has a big range and numbers in the rest of Europe.  I hope that one day it may return to this site.

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Deer Shelter Plain, Epping Forest

We stopped to admire the shape of a fallen oak tree which had turned into a phoenix tree and discussed the possibility of it surviving.

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Fallen Oak tree, still alive

Things were astir at my feet, I was told these were baby Wolf spiders rustling about in the undergrowth. I was quite glad at this point that I had boots and long trousers on but even so I didn’t linger in the same spot too long.

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Jeremy was keen to show me the beech pollards which had also been coppiced becoming coppards. It is difficult to tell the age of such trees.  Nearby buzzing indicated a wild bees which had made their home in a monolith tree.  Jeremy said even when no longer alive, trees are still performing many important functions.

I was left alone to take some pictures and to enjoy this part of the forest. It’s difficult to take pictures in a forest when the sun is so bright as there are deep shadows and bright highlights. I prefer taking images in the early morning or late afternoon when the sun is lower in the sky creating less harsh shadows. However I am lucky to have such a fantastic guide to show me the forest and I can return again at any time.

Lastly I enjoyed exploring an area with some small gravel workings.  I was fascinated with the way the beech tree roots had grown around the outside of the pit.  I took a number of photos from different angles and finally decided I wanted an image from low down inside.

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It was full of crunchy leaves.  I stepped in and immediately started sinking covering my boots in dank smelling mud.  My heart leapt as I jumped out, not knowing how deep it was, reminding me of quick sand, especially as by this time I was alone in an isolated part of the forest. Next time I will think before I jump in with both feet.

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Morning at Barn Hoppitt, Epping Forest

Today I left my home at 6:30am so I could catch the early morning light shining on one of my favourite trees by the pond at Barn Hoppitt.  I was not disappointed, it was a beautiful spring day, the birds were singing and all the people I met seemed to have  smiles on their faces whilst they were enjoying a walk in the sunshine. The first person I met had two beautiful greyhounds who kindly let me photograph them. I didn’t have time to change from my wide-angle lens but actually quite like the perspective it gave.

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Dog Walker at Barn Hoppitt, Epping Forest

I made two mistakes today I forgot to bring a model release form for when I photograph any people and I also forgot the plate which connects my camera to the tripod!  Lucky I had enough light today to get a fast shutter speed and hopefully I will bump into this man again.

I also met another dog walker whose husky took a dip in the pond, he looked so refreshed when he came splashing out but I had to protect my camera as he had a good shake when he came past.  The man told me about a tree which he likes nearby which overhangs, I didn’t ask the location but hopefully I will come across it on my travels.

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Spring Morning at Warren Pond, Barn Hoppitt, Epping Forest

The last people I met were a couple, I shall presume married.  The wife Cheryl told me about her childhood memories of a tree she calls the Aeroplane Tree at Pole Hill.  Apparently kids past and present all pretend they’re an aeroplane when they climb it.  The husband David used to be a Pond Bailiff and is now a bee keeper.  He was looking for a wild bees nest that he had been told about in the forest and came back to tell me when he had found it and showed me a picture.  I gave them my email address and they promised to email me as I would love to talk to them again and hear about their many stories about the forest.

Later on I met Jeremy Dagley, the Head of Conservation and he showed me the holes where solitary bees live around the roots of the tree I was photographing.  He also told me what birds we could hear singing which were Black Caps, Mistle Thrushes and Nut Hatches. I have since been listening to Radio 4s ‘Tweet of the Day’ so I can recognise which birds are singing when I’m about in the forest, I think it will take me a long time to recognise them all.

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Holes under ancient tree root for solitary miner bees

Lastly, this is the tree that I came to photograph.  I checked the LightTrac app on my phone to see where the sun would be when I arrived but I didn’t account for my shadow getting in the way!

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Me and my shadow

This image was taken a little earlier in the golden light and I have edited myself out of the picture.  If you are very small you could actually climb underneath this tree and through the other side.  This tree looks different from all angles, it looks like a crab and others have said Medusa and a Lion’s Head.  I would love to know your thoughts and what you think this tree’s name should be.

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Ancient Oak Tree at Barn Hoppitt, Epping Forest

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Reflections in Epping Forest

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Ancient Oaks at Epping Forest

Ultra wide angle shot for a bit of creative photography

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Old Oak at Barn Hoppitt

A bit of research at Epping Forest this week, love this old oak at Barn Hoppitt.  You can actually crawl right through it underneath!

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Icelandic Troll

 

They say if you look at the landscape long enough in Iceland you will see a troll. Can you see one in my picture? He has a curly horn, big forehead, moustache, beard and his huge arm is resting on a boulder towards the front of the picture. Please tell me I’m not going mad!!

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Ice Cave

Inside a glacial ice cave. Taken whilst glacier hiking in Vatnajokull National Park, Iceland. A splash of creative colour added whilst editing.web-creative-ice-cave-marion-sidebottom

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Against All Odds!

This lime tree in Norfolk is refusing to give up!

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500 Year Old Oriental Plane Tree

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This oriental plane tree (Platanus orientalis)  is one of two located just outside the Renaissance gardens and arboretum of Trsteno in Croatia.  They are thought to be approximately 500 years old and have a colourful history including helping to save Dubrovnik from the Napoleonic army in 1806 due to a fallen limb which stalled his army for a few days.  Five trees were planted in the 16th Century but only 2 now survive which have grown to a great size. According to Monumentaltrees.com in 2013/2014 this one had a girth of 11.91metres and a height of 40.6 metres.  I made a special visit to this incredible tree whilst on holiday as I think it is a great tale of history and survival.  In the picture my sister is hugging the tree to show its great size!

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