At this time of year, more so than at others, our gaze is drawn to the wonderful colours of the changing trees. Here in The Surrey Hills http://www.surreyhills.org we are so luck to live within the most wooded county in England. Trees as far as the eye can see.
As a stained glass artists I am often asked to portray these in glass.
I have no shortage of inspiration here! I just have to walk out of my door and here they all are.
The amazing lightning oak tree behind my workshop is still clinging to life with a third of it in full leaf.
The view from the woods towards the North Downs on a bluebelly day with the tree trunks providing strength and light and shade to the image.
The mixed woodland at the edge of the field behind the workshop on a sunny summer day with my beloved beech tree in stretching down and providing essential shade.
Trees are not just essential for the life of our planet but many were revered in ancient times for their mystical and magical properties. Such myth and folklore surround them that we should perhaps listen to the knowledge of our ancestors.
A wand cut from a hazel can be used for dowsing and divination. The countrywise use hazel twigs for bean poles, twigs for peas and for making wattle fence panels.
The Romans used supple hazel twigs for tying vines to stakes and in the Middle ages hazel was burnt to make charcoal.
In modern times hazel branches have been used to construct shuttlers called ‘benders’. Long hazel poles are ties together and then a tarpaulin is stretched over the top.
Tying a hazel twig to a horse’s harness was a traditional way of protecting the horse from enchantment by fairies. But probably best of all is that the hazel is thought to be the tree of immortality and is especially revered for the nuts which were believed to carry all wisdom.
Maybe this is why the little dormouse so prefers to be beside the hazel as his habitat!
Who doesn’t love and beautiful oak tree? I was taught to recognise these gorgeous trees in winter by looking out for the branches which look like knees and elbows. And they do….This is the lighting oak before it was struck.
The oak tree hosts by far the most other species of life than any other tree. It is in itself a habitat and is often called the ‘garden of the country’. Traditionally couples were married under an oak tree long before the Christians substituted marriage in a church. The tree is known for its warmth and friendliness and is regarded as the emblem of hospitality and strength.
The very earliest spirits of Greek mythology were called dryads, oak-tree spirits and it was once believed that the oak was the first tree created by God from which spang the entire human race.
The druids were known as the wise men of the oak and the title ‘druid’ is most likely derived from duir, the Old Irish/Gaelic name for oak.
The wood of the oak , as well as being incredibly strong is renowned for its beauty of grain and texture and its rich colour after polishing. Oak has been used for centuries for building and for making furniture.
These two native trees are ubiquitous here in the Surrey Hills but the oak surely has to be the most iconic and interestingly the one I am most asked to portray in glass.
Here is a film made last year showing the life of an oak tree throughout a whole year.