Arriving in Bucks Valley Woods, I switch off the car engine, and relax. Each time I come here, I notice changes. It all seems to happen so quickly. Particularly at this time of year, the autumn season, it seems even more noticeable. I have been trying to record the changes in leaf colour with photography over the last couple of months, but it hasn’t worked out very well. It doesn’t do justice to the subtle, infinitely complex movement of life.
Here’s a couple of the photos taken two weeks apart (back on 26 Aug and 8 Sep). Probably the differences can mostly be put down to differing light conditions, though it is possible to see the more exposed branches and twigs in the second photo.
I have watched the changing weather and clouds moving across the sky, and felt the warm summer air give way to a new chill wafting through the trees. Every now and then, a gust of wind up high sends a flurry of leaves floating down around me like snow. Wasn’t able to photograph this very well either!
In September, I enjoyed wading in the stream amidst bright sunlight and shifting shadow. I made a few small land art pieces with the stones strewn along its length, and would have made more, but the water level suddenly rose after a couple of rainy days, coming well above the height of my boots. I didn’t fancy this very much.
Beyond the steep hillside I was amazed how the sun appeared to take a lower and lower arc every day. Sometimes it disappeared behind dense woodland and emerged somewhere different an hour or two later. It was almost impossible to forecast where shadows and light would fall from one day to the next – or even from one hour to the next.
So I was fortunate the sun appeared in a gap between the trees, just as I was photographing the work shown above – throwing a vivid green reflection down from the trees above, right down into its centre.
This month, October, I found scattered Rowan berries along the path. I put them in a little bag, whilst I decided what to do with them. Next day, I found a lot of them had gone brown. Oh no! I hurried to one of my favourite making spots and assembled this bright little piece with the best ones. Then I hurried back to the place I’d found them, where luckily I found some more berries had fallen – and was able to complete the work.
It sometimes feels weird to think that not many years ago, I was making massive outdoor sculptural installations requiring diggers and fork lift trucks. Nowadays I seem to have gone to the opposite extreme – in terms of scale, at any rate. I tell myself it is because I am at a different point in my life cycle, though really I haven’t a clue what is going on.
Round about where I made the Rowan piece, I noticed hundreds of spiky little Sweet Chestnut seed cases, falling down all around with a thud. Walking up the track a little, I noticed hundreds more lying on the ground. Of course, I had to pick them up and put them into bags…
I carried a load around with me literally for hours, without finding the ideal place to make anything. I did not want to go too far away from the place where I had found them.
Next day, fed up with wandering, I decided there was nothing for it but to make a large circle, which I placed right in the middle of the wide woodland track, and where I could get a good photo viewpoint. I made an impromptu broom with twigs, and swept chestnut tree leaves all around it – decided it looked rubbish, and swept them all back where they had come from.
I wasn’t too sure about this piece of work, and that night as I lay in bed, I decided it was too intrusive. So I came back the next day with my daughter’s dog, and swept it all away.
But I did take a couple of photos…
My working processes are about this place, and the fleeting ever-changing nature of life and its seasons. What remains here in the woods, always, is the pervading sound of water rushing over stone, and the wind rustling the leaves high up in the trees.