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Light angels of the coombe

Light angels of the coombe

Part I

Throughout the last four weeks, I have made a firm habit of walking the land in the golden hour leading up to the sunset. This time of evening has been especially spectacular this month as the billowing nimbi break over the levels, channelling aureate beams, like heavenly spotlights, at the four hills of Avalon.

Stray rays tunnel deep through the tiniest chinks in the foliage, hitting nothing on their long journey from the sun, to take their final rest upon a single branch in the darkest thicket of the farthest nook of the coombe. These are fleeting angels of the undergrowth, travelled far from the burning sphere, on a mission to enlighten.

During my rounds, I regularly visit the singing oak upon stone down. Now unable to sit for the wet earth, I lean myself up against its sturdy trunk, which is perfectly curved to fit my back. From here, I can see the tiny silhouetted figures dotted along the Tor’s sacred ridgeway, belittled by the mound, which is itself belittled by the colossal cloudscapes above it, the accumulating cumuli belittled yet again by the beauty of the entire scene.

Some of the pilgrims lean into the hill with their heads down as if counting the steps, or else wander lazily, stopping to gaze at the expanding landscape beneath them. Little do they know that eyes gaze upon them, both of human and of tree – which makes me wonder, how many times have I been watched while climbing the Tor?

Chalice hill, gilded

From this location, the view of both the Tor and Chalice hill sets the perfect scene through which to enjoy these spectacular plays of light and water suspended in the sky, immense airborne artworks hung by the hand of the God.

For fleeting moments it feels like summer returns, but it is for just a brief wave goodbye. As the last of the this Summer’s light illuminates the mounds, long-tailed tits glide and twitch through the silhouetted hawthorn, while the far beyond is leafed in gold, I dwell peacefully on the thought that paradise itself is, right here.

Yellow Willows

Elder autumn colours

Part II

“The tips are yellow”,  sang a repetitive internal voice in reference to the bank of lemon tinged willows lining the meadow before me. The Elder too is busy degrading its leaves, pale flames flickering in the hedgerows, some showing a gradient all the way from bright green to a light beetroot.

The blushed red hawthorns, dangled with black bryony’s translucent red berries and the seeded travellers’ joy, add to the merry dance of colour parading through the hedges at this time of the year.

I enter through the willows into where the water trickles along a shallow gully surrounded by a banked corridor of trees and understory that create a narrow enclosed space that feels like it might support its very own little ecosystem.

A winding path leads for fifty or so metres through the undergrowth, lined by ivy, with hazel, field maple, and thorn providing cover on both sides and ash, oak, and willow forming the ceiling.

Contorted ash throne

The ash trees here are notably contorted, meandering out of the ground and, in one case, sporting a split trunk with enough space to walk between the two.

Midway through lives an ash throne, pictured here, a stilted ash tree with multiple fused trunks forming a cupped hand.

The stilted stump of this tree is baffling, it’s a lump of tree with branches and trunks protruding from the stool in all directions. Normally, when trees grow in this stilted way, it’s because they grew out of a fallen tree and as the trunk rotted away beneath them, this strangely sculpted trunk was formed. The circular shape of the holes might support that theory.

It’s easy to lose an hour or two wandering through this relatively small patch. When one is held within this little tube full of nature’s busyness, time, and indeed all else seems to fade away. It’s a place I visit regularly, one of the most idyllic spots in Glastonbury, and actually where the tree walks all began. In the gallery below you will find pictures of an artwork with the yellowing willow leaves, water, and light, created in this location.

Norway maple in flames

I continue on, heading towards stone down lane intent on visiting the tor woods. Down in the lanes, the verges are becoming decorated in multi-colours, the Norway maple leaves mottled in all the reds through to green, one N Maple in particular has changed only one limb, and looks as if it’s on fire.

I came this way to visit one tree in particular, the matriarch beech in the centre of the woods. A mighty beech of nearly 3 metres in circumference, who stands where no other beech trees stand. Her exposed roots, like intricate pipe works, appear to be gripping the earth, and her sturdy trunk, safely ensures her position on the side of the mound.

Beech nuts and cyclamen

The steep banks of the Tor mean that her bounty of nuts roll down the hill and gather at the bottom, and in such numbers that they rest upon every available shelf all the way down from her trunk to the path. Squirrels heaven, as a golden layer of husks is laid upon last year’s degrading piles, which sits upon the previous years further degraded beech bits.

Just to add to the regal stance of this tree, a flourish of Cyclamen lead up towards her like a royal carpet. The light pink flowers contrast and compliment with the bright golden brown of the beech nut husks, their bristliness sits in juxtaposition to the subtle curves of the flowers and stems.

Check out this 2 minute tree walk – Video

Gallery of Land Art

This month, I have been busy creating art from the debris of early autumn. The gallery below shows a selection of the pieces, including the willow dragon, the beech butterflies, and chimera trees.

I set out with the intention of experimenting with techniques and mediums other than the usual geometric leaf shapes. There are many people making leaf mandalas and so I forbade this activity for the time being, while I went in search of more original mediums, methods, locations and collaborations. The aim was to create pieces that are subtle and gently merge with their locations, rather that being imposed upon them or laid on top of them, they should almost be not noticeable, and emerge from or be discovered within the environment.

A Pile of Ash – An ash tree on Stone down recently lost a bough. It was chopped and left in a pile beneath the tree, awaiting collection for firewood, until I stumbled upon it! I have for some time desired to work with a pile of chopped wood, I was just waiting for the right pile to appear in the right space, at the right time.

The ordering of a chaotic pile, and the art of stacking it high, feels almost like resurrecting the fallen bough. Noted is the artworks mimicry of its surrounding landscape, also noted is the shape’s resemblance to fire, to which it is soon to be thrown. The first image shows the stack, the Tor, and the tree from which the bough had fallen, together in one image.

In other pieces I aimed for a subtler approach, gentle understated forms and patterns and unconventional methods of arrangement. Fitting acorns into the furrows of the oak bark, attaching the beech husks like velcro to the trees mossy coat, attempting to find harmony between the environment and the patterns.

The most subtle of these pieces is the hawthorn acorn chimera trees. Only a person with an eye for the leaves and fruit of hawthorn and oak would notice this little mashup.

More land art to come throughout Autumn. I will be posting more of these via instagram over the next few weeks, follow: @tothetreesavalon

A Visual Diary – Sep/Oct 2022

Autumn Tree Walks

Upcoming Tree Walks – Autumn

Public Tree Walks, Glastonbury – By Donation

Note: These are the final dates before we take a break in Dec and Jan.

Sat 8th Oct – Autumn Tree Walk, Glastonbury – 11am – 1pm

Sat 5th Nov – Matt’s Birthday Tree Walk – 11am – 1pm

Sun 27th Nov– Autumn Tree Walk, Glastonbury – 11am – 1pm

FB Event:

Glastonbury Cemetery Tree Walk

Wednesdays: 19th Oct, 2nd Nov, 16th Nov

11am – 12.30pm – by donation

FB Event:

Abbey Tree Walk & Talk – Autumn

Note:  Abbey Entry fee is not included

A gentle walk with tree ident and poetry.

Sat 15th Oct – 11am – 12.30pm – £10pp

Sat 19th Nov – 11am – 12.30pm – £10pp

FB Event:

Bishops Palace Walk, Wells

* Last of season *

Gentle walk and talk with tree ident, songs, and poetry in the grounds of Bishop’s Palace.

Sat 12th Nov – Bishop’s Palace Autumn Tree Walk – £14.50pp – 11am – 12.30pm

FB Event:

Booking: 07548 936 081

Private walks

Walks for individuals and groups, for birthdays, weddings, and as an add on to your retreat, at a date and time to suit you.

Call Matt to book: 07548 936 081

Matt Witt

Author Matt Witt

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