The magical forest

My son Gabriel’s coming to visit for the weekend. He’s bringing his camera and wants to have a few trips out. We decide on Babbacombe at nightfall, Lydford Gorge and then he sends me a photograph from Instagram by Neil J Burnell which has been reposted by the ‘Earth’ account on Instagram. It’s been liked by over 224,000 people.

Wistman's Wood - The Hall of Einar - original photograph by neiljburnell

It’s a photograph of Wistman’s Wood, a place I’ve blogged about before.

He wants to visit Wistman’s Wood and make a film while trying to recreate the photograph. He’s just come back from Snowdonia where he made this recreation-of-a-photograph video:

We chat:

Chat - The Hall of Einar

We’ll go early, be respectful and take only photographs. It’s an amazing place:

Wistman's Wood - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

It’s also tiny and very delicate and susceptible to damage.

Wistman's Wood - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

It’s a true rainforest, of the sort which would have covered the whole of the west of the UK if we hadn’t slashed and burned it.

Wistman's Wood - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

There are epiphytes, plants which grow on plants, everywhere. There are ferns, mosses and lichens dangling from boughs.

Wistman's Wood - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

I finally find a composition which I like:

Wistman's Wood - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

The green is so intense here, it hurts. Gabriel’s brought a film camera with him today so he grabs a shot of me.

Wistman's Wood - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) Gabriel Bailey (not the)

Which is a good excuse for me to grab the camera and take a photograph of him:

Wistman's Wood - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

Film’s still fabulous, isn’t it?

All the time we’ve been here he’s been looking for the exact tree in the photograph. We have eight acres to search. All the trees are twisted, diminutive oaks with branches full of epiphytes. How on earth are we meant to find one tree?

“I think I’ve found it”, I hear him call. Sure enough, there it is and he gets the photograph he’s been looking for. It looks wonderful. I won’t spoil it by sharing it. Do check out Gabriel’s YouTube channel and subscribe so you can see the video when he posts it.

We walk back to the car and there are three people from Dartmoor National Park Authority telling people not to go in the wood. Apparently they think that there are ‘too many people’ going in there. I say that’s not true. It’s not that there are too many people, it’s simply that Wistman’s Wood is too small. 15 people own half of Dartmoor, which is 236,000 acres in total, and all we’re left with this pathetic excuse for an ancient woodland.

We should wrestle back democratic control by nationalising all the large areas of land on Dartmoor and create a new National Wilderness. We’re in a climate and nature emergency. It’s no time for a few people to determine our future, with cosy payments from the Government.

Next time I’m bringing a pitchfork. Who’s coming? We need 224,000 people.

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