J Peggy Taylor
I love natural materials and wood is one of my favourites. When Cee asked us to focus on wood for her Black and White Photo Challenge this week, I knew this was a perfect challenge for me. Wood is such a natural part of my life and I find it is an amazing and beautiful material. Let me share with you some of the ways I enjoy wood in my life.
The entire lifespan of wood, from tree seed to decayed wood, is a story of life-giving processes and for me these processes provide endless inspiration. The sprouting acorn I used to open my post is for me a symbol of the birth of something new, perhaps a new project or venture that I want to nurture and grow to achieve its aims.
We live surrounded by woods and walk there often, so we experience all of the natural world’s seasonal variations that woodland has to offer. One of the many pleasures of a woodland wander is wending our way homeward along the old railway with the afternoon sun of early Autumn filtering through the trees, casting lengthening shadows across our path. The wooden bench at the edge of the track offers the opportunity to sit and take in the calming atmosphere of the wood.
The wilder weather of recent years has taken its toll on trees in many places, including here in our woods. This substantial limb from an oak tree has been ripped away by the wind and now lies on the edge of the horse field. Fallen timber provides an amazing habitat for a whole array of creatures. The process of wood decaying is helped very much on its way by the many mini-beasts that live on dead wood. The wood of the oak branch may be dead, but it is still teeming with life.
As well as walking in woods, we also enjoy working with wood. My son is shaping a tenon on one end of an ash pole as part of his pole lathe project last year.
When the pole lathe was completed, it was time to practice turning green wood. The candlesticks may not quite be a ‘pair’ in the traditional sense, but they did demonstrate a certain level of success and dexterity with the turning chisels. I love the way wood turning brings out the grain and other points of interest in the wood.
I was delighted to receive this hand carved spoon in cherry wood from my son as a Christmas present a couple of years ago. The carving has revealed the varying tones in the cherry wood. This wooden spoon has a special role in my utensil jar as my morning porridge-stirring spoon.
I laughed when I first loaded this image onto my computer. While I was out in the beechwood composing the shot, I never noticed the grinning monster. I only saw the sunlight picking out the rough textures in the decaying log that contrasted so well with the smooth fungi growing on the wood. I hope it makes you smile too.
If you too delight in wood, take a look at Cee’s Black and White Photo Challenge this week for more inspiring wood images.
J Peggy Taylor
Most of our Christmas decorations have shared many festive seasons with us. Several of them have their own tales that are retold each year as we retrieve them from their packing boxes for their next seasonal display. Some are items that have been hand crafted by our children over the years.
One such item is the willow base on which each year I craft our Christmas wreath of evergreens with holly, ivy, pine and two ‘ears’ of yew. Collecting the greenery is something of a family ritual, but also a welcome excuse for a woodland wander. I love the woods at all times of year and mid-Winter has its own magic.
When complete, we hang our Christmas wreath outdoors on a wall-hook. We used to hang it on the door but modern uPVC doors don’t seem to lend themselves well to ancient earthy rituals like wreath hanging!
J Peggy Taylor
There are some landscapes close to where we live that I find myself photographing over and over again, in all weathers and in all seasons. For Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week on the theme of landscapes, I thought I’d share a few of them with you. My header image is one of our regular paths to the woods, looking across to the trees in their Spring greens on the edge of the wood, with the yellow of blooming gorse shrubs brightening the fields.
From our front window we look out eastwards towards the woods. Looking east also gives us the morning sun and some beautiful sunrises. I must say my early morning sunrise photos are generally taken through the window rather than from outside! Sometimes the sun puts on a spectacular colour show but I loved the gentle gold of this one. You’ll see this same view in very different weather on the image I’ve chosen for our Oak Trees Studio greetings card across on the right.
A favourite walk westwards from our village, along part of an old railway line, gives us fabulous landscape views out across the valley. In Spring we see the trees gradually greening up with their new season’s foliage and the bright greens of distant field crops. Summer brings darker greens in the trees but also bright splashes of yellow in the fields and, on a clear day, the purple of the heather high up on the moors.
This view westwards with its ever-changing vista often provides us with a weather preview before we experience it first hand and also some wonderful cloudscapes. As we wander along the valley side, we’ll often stop to take in the view, spotting the shapes in the clouds or commenting on the sunbeams glancing down through the deep cumulus clouds. I love the moody sky over the Summer valley in this photo.
In Winter our walks usually take us out into the woods, whether we are squelching through oozing mud and puddles or crunching through crisp snow. When our Winter ramble is done, we head homeward, leaving the woods behind us and dropping back down across the meadow path into the village. Again we can take in the scenic landscape looking westward over the valley, with its big skies and cloud patterns. At this time of year, if we time it right on a clear day, we can watch the setting sun slip down behind the horizon as we emerge from the cover of the woods and follow the field path down to the road.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief glimpse into my daily landscapes. Do take a look at the landscapes and seascapes others have shared for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week.
J Peggy Taylor
Our woods were beautiful at the weekend as we took in the Autumn colours and swished our feet through the deep carpet of leaves along the paths. Trees and woods are such a pleasure at all times of year, but in Autumn they have a special appeal. I’ve shared a couple of images from our walk in this post.
As many of us in the northern hemisphere are enjoying the beauty of our trees and woodlands in their Autumn glory, here in England it’s time to vote for our favourite tree to be crowned England’s Tree Of The Year.
After receiving over 200 nominations from tree-lovers around the country for some of the most amazing trees in England, the Woodland Trust has drawn up its shortlist of 10 special trees. Now we can vote for our own personal favourite from the shortlist. The chosen tree will represent England in the 2015 European Tree of the Year contest. Why for England only and not the UK? Don’t worry, Scotland, Ireland and Wales are not missing out here, as each country chooses its own tree.
What is the European Tree of the Year contest all about?
“We are not searching for the oldest, the tallest, the biggest, the most beautiful or the rarest of trees. We are searching for the most lovable tree, a tree with a story that can bring the community together.”
There are some wonderful and historic contenders on the shortlist for England’s Tree Of The Year – what they do have in common is that all of them are well-loved:
- The Big Bellied Oak in Savernake Forest, one of Wiltshire’s ancient ‘Royal Forests’ dating back to Norman times. With a girth of 10.8 metres, this ancient oak lives up to its name.
- The Allerton Oak in Calderstones Park, Liverpool, another contender dating back to medieval times when it is believed to have been used as a court of law.
- The Whiteleaved Oak in the Malvern Hills, Herefordshire , thought to be 400-500 years old. This tree is considered significant by the Druids.
- Kett’s Oak in Hethersett, Norfolk, named after Robert Kett, the leader of the Norfolk Rebellion in 1549 who mustered his men under the oak before marching on Norwich.
- Newton’s Apple Tree at Woolsthorpe Manor, Lincolnshire. This is the tree under which Isaac Newton was sitting when the apple fell on his head and from this experience he subsequently developed his theory on gravity.
- The Ankerwycke Yew at Runnymede on the River Thames in Surrey is possibly the oldest contender in the list, believed to be over 1400 years old. This tree would have seen King John signing the Magna Carta.
- The Shugborough Yew in Staffordshire is a relative youngster at around 350 years old. But its claim to fame is that it is the tree with the widest span in the UK, with an amazing circumference of 200 yards.
- The Ickwell Oak in Bedfordshire is believed to be 350 years old and is highly regarded by its local community.
- Old Knobbley is an ancient oak in the Essex village of Mistley and is thought to be at least 800 years old. This tree has inspired a picture book, telling its story.
- The Major Oak in Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire is the tree associated with the legend of Robin Hood and his Merry Men. This tree is thought to be 800-1000 years old.
You can see the images of all of these fabulous trees on the Woodland Trust’s website here, where you can also vote for your favourite from the shortlist. Voting closes on 4th November so do take a look and choose your nomination for England’s Tree Of The Year.
Our ancient trees and woodlands are very precious and I am always keen to support or celebrate these living monuments. Now all I need to do, is to make my mind up which one to choose as Tree Of The Year …
J Peggy Taylor
After my surprise and delight at being selected by Cee as one of her Featured Bloggers for my post in last week’s Fun Foto Challenge on the colour blue, this week I have looked for yellow signs of Autumn in my favourite environment, the woods.
When we took a Sunday stroll in one of our local woods last weekend, we could certainly see Autumn is upon us. Yellowing bracken and yellowing leaves were all around us.
The Autumn leaf colours that we all so enjoy are a very visible sign that the trees and plants have done their work and are approaching their Winter’s rest. The changing colour we observe is part of the chemical process in the leaves that we know as photosynthesis.
The lower levels of sunlight and cooler temperatures of Autumn mean the leaves are no longer able to produce chlorophyll, the pigment that paints the leaves green in Spring and Summer. As the chlorophyll is used up by the leaf for food and the leaf is no longer able to produce more, we observe the green of the leaf fading to yellow.
The yellow colour is provided by the carotene that has also been present in the leaf but in Spring and Summer is not visible to us under the green cloak of the chlorophyll. We learned all this and more on the changing colours of Autumn leaves from this fascinating Woodland Trust information leaflet.
The signs of the approaching time of rest for the trees gives rise to another kind of sign in the woods too – Tree Felling time! Autumn and Winter are the seasons for a lot of woodland maintenance work. The woodland you see in my images in this post is currently undergoing a restoration plan. The ancient woods that once cloaked our valley have largely disappeared as farmland, villages and commercial forestry took over.
There is now a move to try and restore some of the remaining woodlands to their former glory, especially in woods such as this one, where small pockets of the ancient woodland remain. With careful planning it is possible to remove the commercial plantation plantings and facilitate the regrowth of indigenous tree and understorey species. We have already seen how successful this can be in other parts of this wood.
When we visited these woods on Sunday we saw the tree felling signs were in place, ready to remove the fully grown Norway Spruce trees from an area of the wood our children have known as ‘Mirkwood’. If you’re a Tolkein fan, you will recall instantly that dark, dense forest from The Hobbit. So, although we know the restoration of ancient woodland will be wonderful in the long run, it is with a tinge of sadness that we see this part of a childhood play area being felled. Perhaps we can recognise this as a sign of our children growing up too – though I doubt they will ever grow out of building dams in woodland streams or having pine cone battles between the trees!
This post links to Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge with the theme of ‘Yellow’ and the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge with the theme of ‘Signs’. Do take a look at the yellows and signs that others have found for us this week’s challenges.
J Peggy Taylor
This post is linked to Cee’s Black & White Challenge – Water: from a drop to an ocean.
I often take photos that include water so I’d decided to try my hand at Cee’s Black & White Challenge this week. Black and White photography is something of a new learning curve for me so it seemed amazingly fortuitous when, just yesterday, I saw Cee had published her new Tips and Tricks on Black and White photography. Thanks Cee 😀
J Peggy Taylor