RSPB Sherwood Commission

Having spent a lot of time photographing Sherwood Forest, for my yearlong project and beyond, I was delighted to be contacted by the RSPB at the start of this year about their project to restore the old visitor centre area within the forest.

For those who aren’t aware, the RSPB took over management of Sherwood last year, and part of the changeover was working alongside Natural England to relocate the visitor centre, as the old one built in the 1970s was within a Site of Special Scientific Interest, with the buildings, car parks and footfall all having an impact on the ancient oaks nearby.

You can read more about the requirement for the work at
https://www.visitsherwood.co.uk/restoring-the-forest/

When I got involved the new centre had been completed and work had already started taking down the buildings at the old site. They were taking photos of the process, but my brief was to look more closely at the trees and capture the changes over the course of the year.

This was still a far cry from my usual woodland photography, working around the old buildings, workers, machinery and all the trees were surrounded by Heras fencing for protection. It was a fully managed construction site, so no last minute early morning visits to take advantage of the best conditions, visits had to be pre-arranged, full PPE gear and signing in and out on site.

To ensure the trees were not damaged during the work the buildings were taken down piece by piece, using remotely operated machinery.

Despite this I spent a few hours trying to capture as much as I could of the work taking place and the ancient oak trees (those over 500 years old) which were such an important part of the process.

I had some clear shots to show the work on site, but wanted to ensure I had some of my own style and more intimate images in there too.

Over the next few months I arranged a couple more visits as things had progressed on site, and each time I went back tried to capture some of the same areas as before to clearly show the transitions.

As the site moved past the demolition phase the possibility to be more flexible with my visits opened up, I picked up a key to site, started watching the forecasts and headed over early morning to make the most of some more exciting conditions. The main site itself wasn’t in the best place for mist or light, but there were some areas around the edges that allowed a bit more drama.

In total the commission spanned over 8 months and it was incredible to see how quickly nature took back over in the latter stages, it was only a couple of weeks between the new soil going down and the ground completely greening over.

In the final shoot the main aim was to recreate the earlier scenes as closely as possible to give a direct comparison. In some places this was fairly easy as the ancient oaks were the focal point, in others where buildings had been the main subject matter there was much more difficulty in orientating myself to the same place with the building completely removed and all the trees in full leaf. In these cases it was largely based around trying to copy the shape of the skyline and some of the standout trees.

It’s been a pleasure to work with the RSPB and see restorative work being carried out around an area I’ve enjoyed spending so much time for my own personal photography. The first use of my images can be seen on a news post explaining some of the work that has been done
https://www.visitsherwood.co.uk/look-out-nature-at-work/

You can see my personal images from Sherwood Forest at http://www.chrismdale.co.uk/sherwood

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