Searching for Obelisk

Sunday 30 July 2017 – Epping Forest.

The day after we returned from our south coast road trip I visited an exhibition at the wonderful Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge on the edge of Epping Forest. The exhibition was a collection of photographs taken by Marion Sidebottom, who is the current artist in residence at the forest. The focus of the work was the ancient trees in the forest, a subject I to am interested in. There were some lovely photos and I enjoyed a brief chat with Marion as well.

The exhibition did inspire me to get out and take some more photos in the forest, and maybe, just get lost wandering around for a while. My mission for this walk was to find a tree that was named in Marion’s exhibition as Obelisk. Two beech trees that appear to be wedded together. Helpfully Marion identified the location for the tree, so it was off to Loughton Camp I went.

Parking in the car park on Epping New Road, I headed off into the trees with the 5d on my back and the tripod under my arm. I was fully prepare for a photography session.

I know this section of the forest pretty well, so I was off the path and into the trees as soon as I left the car. The first scene I stopped at was one I had seen when I was last here on my bike. I am not particularly happy with this shot, though I am also not unhappy with it. This pretty much sums up all the photos I took today.

On the other side of the path I spent a bit of time trying to get a shot of the green moss popping out of the brown and yellow leaf covered soil. There was a lot of fast moving cloud about so it was quite tricky trying to get the light right. In the end I elected for a shady look.

Walking on I soon arrived in a clearing close to Strawberry Pond.

The sun was a lot brighter which made photography a more complex, there was also a strong and gusty breeze blowing, moving all the foliage around. I spent a bit of time trying to get a close up of the bright green ferns against the heather.

I very much like a strong contrast and am constantly on the look out for a bright white tree trunk against a lush dark green background. I like the concept of this photo, but it still not quite right, another one of those, not too bad but not great shots that were the mark of the day.

Crossing over Earls Path I slogged my way up the hill towards Loughton Camp, stopping on the way to photograph the trunks of this beech. I particularly liked the contrasting moss and the way it slowly moving up the trunk.

Arriving at Loughton Camp I was annoyed to find a small group of youf riding mountain bikes over the mounds. As a mountain biker I don’t blame them, they look like they would be a lot of fun, but this is an ancient site and should be preserved so it is still there in another 2500 years. There are a couple of signs saying no bikes, but not enough of them and they are not very clear. I didn’t want to point my camera at them in case they thought I was going to tell on them. I do think it restricted my taking photos though. So here is some of Loughton Camp, facing away from the boys on their bikes. You can see there is a well warn path through here.

With the boys riding around the north end of the camp I decided to explore the south and west, looking for the ‘Obelisk’ trees. The area is huge, and there are a lot of beech here. Apparently 60% of England’s ancient beech trees are in Epping Forest. I did not find Obelisk, but I did find this outline of New Zealand in the thin scraggly grass between the trees.

I spent a bit of time on the flat area looking for Obelisk and for anything else worth photographing, I took a few other images, but nothing I was overly happy with. Mildly frustrated I decided to head back towards the car, though walking down through the trees rather than the main path.

I spent a bit of time at this small grove of silver birch that were backed by some nice dark holly. It was fairly dim now, and I was shooting at quite a slow shutter speed to get a bit of depth. With the breeze and the incline I was not able to get a perfectly still shot. I made a note of the location and will come back here as autumn comes and the leaves start to turn.

The forest was quite dense, surprisingly so. I am used to quite open sections that can be ridden through. I ended doing more of a bush bash than I expected, finally working my way back to the path, Long trousers next time, will save losing skin on my legs.

Once back across Earls Path I took another side trip into the trees in the general direction of the car. I hit another gnarly dense section of forest, mainly holly bushes, which are never fun to push through. Bizarrely I came across a chair in the middle of the trees, there was nothing around to show that it had been the old camp site of a forest dweller or dwellers. Just a chair. Alone. I took a few photos of it. I love the forest!

It was a semi-good afternoon out. I wasn’t overly happy with my pictures, and I was disappointed I did not find the tree. I have two trees to find near Loughton Camp. The ‘skull tree’, from Will Ahshon’s book, and now Marion’s Obelisk.

More reasons to go back , though I do not need a reason to go back other than it is a magnificent section of a lovely forest.