Stalking the Hardy Ash

I will be leading a photography walk as part of London Tree Week on 29 May, to see the extraordinary Hardy Ash in St Pancras Old Church yard. 150 years ago, the novelist and poet Thomas Hardy was working as an architect’s technician, supervising the removal of gravestones to allow the London and Midlands Railway to come into the new St Pancras station. The gravestones were stacked up  around the trunk of the then young tree, and have since become part of its structure.

The walk is being organised by the Museum of Walking (started by Andrew Stuck), with support from the Mayor of London.

Hardy Ash, London (Infrared)

Hardy Ash, London (Infrared)

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Going, going gone

hampstead heath

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The gradual death of a beech tree in West Heath woods, near to where I live, taken over a span of about 20 years. The trunks were each felled by storms and high winds.

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Movement by The Association of Urban Photographers

Only a few days left…


#UPF2014_Movement_AUP_Exh_PosterThe modern city is a space of movement, flux and flow. Everything changes; sometimes instantly before our eyes, and sometimes almost imperceptibly over time. This year Urban Photographers present Movement, their inaugural exhibition. Association members were invited to respond to the exhibition theme, and there was an expectation that the resulting images would be varied, conceptually diverse, and have a quality of montage rather than a tight, linear flow.

The Association of Urban Photographers is an international group of 30 photographers and artists, all with a shared interest in urban spaces and places. Their work – whether it is about making, publishing or exhibiting photography – asks fundamental questions about the nature of contemporary urban life. Their central concern is to open up discussions about how image-makers and urban researchers can rethink ways of engaging with and encountering the city.

The exhibition is at The Silver Print Gallery, 120…

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Movement by The Association of Urban Photographers

Movement by The Association of Urban Photographers.

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Sweet Chestnut

Castania sativa

Castania sativa

My first sight and taste of sweet chestnuts was in a hot bag handed over by a street seller in London. I was with my parents, probably visiting my Auntie Jess in Clapham Common. The skin, slightly split by the heat, needed to be opened to extract the pale white-yellow hot nut. Sucking in air as it burned the sides of my mouth, hoping that would cool it.  I don’t remember seeing a sweet chestnut tree, though, until I left England to live in France. There, in Ardèche, their twisted trunks are common. Just as common as autumn forays to collect the fallen fruit and separate them from  their spiky shells and bring them home to roast in the oven or on an open fire.


Sweet chestnuts were brought to the British Isles by the Romans and cultivated, mostly in the south. There’s a stunning ancient wood of coppiced chestnuts in Eltham, on the Dover Road in South East London – Oxleas Wood. They’re rare north of the Thames.

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Today’s  tiny, pinched, specimen,  lay in the rain next to its thorny womb, on the tarmac path in Golders Green Park. It’s one of the punier fruit of a magnificent ancient chestnut tree, at least 200 years old, that forms part of the parish boundary. Most of its mates are  veteran oaks, stretching down  the hill, past the bandstand, the deer enclosure and the menagerie .

















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International Urban Photography Summer School

First day of teaching /tutorial work for me on this year’s International Photography Summer School. Thoroughly enjoying the students and colleagues again.


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Hedge Woundwort (Stachys sylvatica)

This magnificent chap hitched a ride, as a seed, in a tub of bluebells kindly given to me by friends Martin and Katy, from their garden in Oxford. A few weeks after the last bluebells had shrivelled to straw, I saw some nettle-like, hairy leaves and a handsome weed growing taller and taller. Finally its bottle-brush tip of purple flowers, with a pink and white whorl on the lower petal emerged.  Two bright yellow stamens stand up like matchsticks. Apparently it is called Woundwort because it has antiseptic properties and was used to make poultices to treat cuts and other wounds. Although fairly common on roadside verges, I’ve never seen this plant around here in London. On Sunday, at a barbecue at Katy and Martin’s, I was able to meet the plant’s cousins and see exactly where it had come from, hiding in the soil around the bluebells.  A double gift.

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