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):
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.
The 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.
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.
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.
I peered inside the tree to check the damage.
It was a little charred in places but thankfully not too extreme.
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.
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.