Out on the heath the action happens well below you, at ground level. The close-cropped growth of grasses; the slow bonsai-like growth of the woody plants; the sinking of the bogs – all the action is on a Lilliputian scale. So I’ve been keeping my nose close to the ground and imagining the small to be large. That’s where this micro-mountain with mushroom trees came in. There is a beauty in everything.
Yes, its a rather graining photo of the back end of a horse! But checkout the tail: it’s cut in a pattern that tells where that pony came from. Each Agister is responsible for a section of the Forest, and this one comes from Agister Robert Maton’s area.
I’ve named this place the Fuzz Bunker. It’s a clump of gorse in the middle of the heath tall enough to walk inside. The ponies and cattle use it to shelter from bad weather, so all surfaces are rubbed smooth and the ground stamped flat. Calling gorse ‘fuzz’ I have heard elsewhere, but I can’t remember where. Today it came from the mouth of a Commoner. Welcome to my Fuzz Bunker!
Met up with Andy Page today, Forestry England’s Head of Wildlife in the New Forest, and wandered the heath as well as a wide range of wildlife topics. Whilst we were doing a little bog hopping he pointed out just how important Hilltop is to bird species, including the lapwing, redshank and curlew. I remember flocks of lapwing over farming land when I was growing up, but no more. In 2019 only six pairs nested in the Forest, and those were at Hilltop. So much to digest from my talk with Andy. In the meantime, I took this 3D portrait of him. [Many thanks Andy for opening my eyes to another side of the Forest.]
It’s tipping it down outside but in here, the brand new residency studio of Spudworks, it’s all cosy. If you are interested in making work in/for the New Forest then check them out. It was Spud that organised The Observatory a few years back. So now all that’s left is to put on my waterproofs and wellies and venture onto the heath at Hilltop with its mires. Should be fun! [Mire: ‘deep, wet, spongy earth]
As soon as you step away from the road, which crosses the heath like a causeway across water, you enter a different time zone: the wood is old and twisted (here washed into a temporary flow-line), the growth takes decades to inch upwards, everything is as if in suspended animation, freeze-framed by a long-forgotten spell. Its quite a relief, in some ways, an expanding time, but how can this anachronistic landscape find a place in the present? Must it always refer to the past? [I’m looking from some answers tomorrow when I meet with a Commoner and Forestry England.]
On the left, the unreal picture-postcard world of Beaulieu, on the right the holding tanks of the Fawley oil refinery, and in the middle Hilltop, with its open heathland – that’s our territory for this residency. This Lidar image shows the topography, captured from the air by bouncing a laser beam from a plane down onto the surface. The colour: that’s totally artificial; blue to show eastward-facing slopes, orange westward-facing slopes; yellow northward-facing slopes. [Thanks Lawrence for taking the time to meet with me and talk 3D. Looking forward to getting your drone over the heat to get some more detailed 3D.]