The Epping Forest Project, Phase 1 – January

Sunday 28 January 2018 – Epping Forest.

After six months in this job I have now settled into a routine that works well. In the main I do not work outside of work hours (he says sitting down to work on a Sunday morning!) and while I still have moments of being a total stress-monkey, I am much better at being able to relax into a weekend. I have allowed myself the time and head space to make benefit of the non-working hours.

I have been pondering some photographic/creative project for a while, a project that forces me off the couch and back outside.  Before we went to St Ives I came up with the plan to complete a 12 month photography project to capture the changing seasons in Epping Forest. The aim is to create one great image each month and combine them into a calendar at year end. Hopefully there will be more than one per month, but there is no point in putting pressure on myself before I even start!

I had planned on spending some of the time in St Ives researching the forest and its history and devising a plan for this project. I want to explore a lot more of the forest, get images from a range of locations and find one unusual spot to focus on. Returning to it each month to witness it change. It requires a bit of research, and I was looking forward to that; and where it led me. I tend to wander off down various rabbit holes when I am on the internet, especially when I am researching places and photography. This is something I really enjoy, but it does add to my already expert levels of procrastination. Sickness ended that plan, spending most of my St Ives downtime curled up in bed gazing vacantly at the wall.

We arrived back in Walthamstow from our holiday on Friday evening, and I was feeling a little perkier.. If I was going to achieve this new photo project then I had to be out today, it is already the last weekend of the month. The sky was a flay grey which was good in some ways, photography would be easier than if the sky was very bright, it was not too cold and not too windy either; though there was enough of a breeze to make close-up shots impossible.

My first stop was the top of Pole Hill. It is not much of a hill, only 92 metres above sea level; but it does have a great view to London city in the distance. Pole Hill also sits on the Greenwich Meridian. An obelisk was built in 1824 marking the exact spot. Sort of. In 1850 they discovered it was 19 ft out of line , so a second and smaller pillar was built. This fact always makes me smile!

Pole Hill’s second claim to fame is that T.E. Lawrence, also known as Lawrence of Arabia, owned some land and had a hut on the hill; now long gone.

I have ridden up this hill on numerous occasions and most of those times I have ridden off down this track that clearly says ‘Cycling’. There is a forest trail that runs close to the edge of the golf course, it is mostly ‘downhill’ and usually a lot of fun. There is a reasonable sized section of forest that I have yet to explore, so downhill I went.

I was surprised at the amount of space there is between the trees, I normally ride through here quite quickly and spend little time in observing my surroundings. Winter has stripped the leaves from most of the trees, adding to the space and light, even allowing for that I found it quite odd. I wonder if the area has been cleared in the recent past. If the ever present, invading holly was removed there would be huge gaps. I hate the holly, but it does provide a solid contrasting backdrop to winter leaves.

There was not a lot that captured my eye in this section, until I came across this manky old football.

As the forest was so open I headed off for a general wander into the trees, skipping the main path, not that I saw another person in this section at all. I did find this small collection of feathers, there was no blood or physical remains to go with them. I initially thought a fox or a feral cat must have grabbed a pigeon or a gull but am now thinking perhaps this was human work…

Crossing Bury Rd I entered the main southern block of Epping Forest, with a plan to do a loop and head back towards the station. As usual I got little lost so that didn’t happen. I did find this small patch of wispy trees with a tiny new silver birch growing in the middle. I do love a silver birch! I spent quite a bit of time here, taking photos from different angles. There was an unusual moss growth on the bottom of some of the wispy trunks that I have not noticed before. I think I have found my 12 month spot.

This was my favourite image from the day. I like the very muted, flat colours, with that thin shaft of white silver birch in the middle.

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Wannabe writer and photographer. Interested in travel and place. From Auckland, New Zealand.