Ten days after a successful trip to Hatfield Forest for my last RPS Landscape group workshop – I was off driving west along the M4 to meet up with Robert Harvey to search out some photographic gems in Wiltshire.
The itinerary detailed 6 different locations to visit so that I guessed we were going to have a full day ahead of us!
Robert had sent directions for each location using the app ‘what three words’. I was interested to use this system for the first time. What a revelation it proved to be in giving precise locations in rural areas! – one cautionary note was that it is best to check if Google maps have identified the best road or track to reach the destination - as some of our group found, later in the day, that they were taken on the wrong route – fortunately no-one was permanently mislaid!
Robert met us at 7am and gave us a brief history of the Savernake Forest – which is located just south of the market town of Marlborough and adjacent to the Wiltshire Downs.
The forest covers an area of around 2,750 acres and includes many of the oldest oak trees to be found in this country. The Grand Avenue where we meet up is lined with beech trees and stretches for nearly 4 miles! We take some photos of this beautiful avenue of autumn trees – with the comment or two that it would be good to have arranged some early morning mist!
We then drove to our next destination about 4 miles away and set off on a path up the Downs. After about 20 minutes of energetic walking, we stopped at the top of the hill and Robert asked us about the view. Not seeing anything spectacular - apart from some fields on each side we were encouraged to turn round and look behind us - to realise that we had just walked through a delightful tree tunnel!
Different aspects of the tunnel were photographed with different lens – those who had Canon cameras had the bonus of being able to share Robert’s fish eye lens to achieve a great effect. Our third destination was back into the forest and a walk to see some of the veteran oak trees – many given descriptive names - such as Gargoyle oak and Sleeping Dragon.
These trees made great subjects to photograph and were enhanced by the surrounding beech trees with rusts, yellows and orange tones.
Despite the forecast of cloudy conditions the sun was now shining brightly – not the best light for some of our shots as the shadows on the trees were very strong. Still, we persevered and achieved some credible results. Some compositions which required a large depth of field provided a good opportunity to use focus stacking.
Next a welcome break for lunch – a picnic sitting on the grass in the forest - not expected in mid-November!
After lunch we set off to the Kennet and Avon Canal near Wilcot. A tranquil scene of a canal with a conveniently moored canal barge on the far side of the bridge. With the low sun shining on the barge there was a strong reflection off the boat – fortunately this could be minimised with the use of a polariser which also enhanced great autumn colours and reflections in the water.
We then drove in the lee of the Wiltshire Downs – past one of the White Horses carved into the chalk. We parked beneath Morgans Hill and walked towards the summit. Up ahead on the top of the Down was Furze Knoll - a large tree clump of beech. The clump had been affected by the windy weather and the trees had lost much of their foliage and therefore some of the expected vibrancy of colour. However, the shape of hills and the leading lines from the fields below provided a good composition.
Or final destination was Oliver’s Castle on Roundway Down – an iron age hill fort at the top of an escarpment with fine views across towards the Somerset levels and the Bristol Channel. With the sun starting to set we had the opportunity to take some shots of the sculptured downland and the individual trees offered great silhouettes.
A great day was had by all - with some very helpful tuition from Robert, and six varied and interesting locations visited.
All Images ©Patrick Smith Photography