vertical features in the forest

March 4, 2011

In the Ashdown Forest with simple, strong, slightly bent or crooked trunks soaring skywards, my thoughts returned to ‘Vertical Features Remake’ an early Peter Greenaway. If you’re interested in landscape and landmarks and bizarre myths, then it’s for you. You can ignore the storyline which gets a tad dull after the first few minutes but the composition of the slides/shots is quite mesmeric. I’m glad it is a ‘short’ as anything longer would pall. The theme is nature created as a man-made regeneration of domestic landscape. Lots of pylons and they can be quite beautiful! But back to this forest, one of the largest areas of significant landscapes, in the South-East, open to all with two-thirds encompassing heathland mostly at the highest point. 

The major trees – oak, pine + birch –  give clear indication of the conditions. Holly and hazel form the major shrubby layer with bracken flooding across the ground plane. Very pretty softness through the dense twiggy branches of the birch – a look that will be lost to view in a month. 

Forest, from the latin, foris, meaning ‘outside’ was the term for land outside cultivation and therefore belonging to the crown. So, hunting and some poaching, I hope, for the poor serfs. Now mostly dog walking!  

Out in the sun on the heath, two pines that appear to kiss.

Lost in the forest, I broke off a dark twig
and lifted its whisper to my thirsty lips:
maybe it was the voice of the rain crying,
a cracked bell, or a torn heart.

Something from far off it seemed
deep and secret to me, hidden by the earth,
a shout muffled by huge autumns,
by the moist half-open darkness of the leaves.

Wakening from the dreaming forest there, the hazel-sprig
sang under my tongue, its drifting fragrance
climbed up through my conscious mind

as if suddenly the roots I had left behind
cried out to me, the land I had lost with my childhood—
and I stopped, wounded by the wandering scent.  Pablo Neruda. Lost in the Forest

Yes, I can see Neruda and Greenaway hitting it off.

2 Responses to “vertical features in the forest”


  1. […] ‘verticals’ in the landscape – rather a theme for me at the moment (blame it on Peter Greenaway! ) – the most distant forms […]


  2. […] ‘vertical features remade’. Empty sheep pens that look all folded up in the complexity of openings and side panels. They maybe […]


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