At 40.4 metres – Stourhead oak tree is the tallest in the UK

Stourhead Oak with David Alderman (Tree Register) and Emily Utgren (Stourhead gardener)

Stourhead Oak with David Alderman (Tree Register) and Emily Utgren (Stourhead gardener)

 The tallest oak tree in the country has been found in the grounds of the National Trust Stourhead estate in Wiltshire – at 40.4 metres (132.5 feet) it is officially the tallest English Oak in the UK. Continue reading…

Community art group’s flags to cover the lawns at Lacock Abbey

Batik Flags (c) National Trust

A display of up to 90 colourful six foot high flags, decorated with batik designs, will be on show on the South Lawn at Lacock Abbey, near Chippenham, from Saturday 8 to Sunday 16 September.

The impressive banners have been created by women living in the villages and Army bases around Salisbury Plain.

The unique project, called ‘Anything But Plain, Darling! has focused on civilian-Army relations in the area.

Organiser, Alex Grant from Salisbury-based charity Circular Arts said: “This has been a wonderful opportunity for women from the forces community to come together with those from the rural area around the Plain, and take part in a high-profile arts event.”

Susi, a forces wife living in Shrewton, felt that Anything But Plain, Darling! was something worth being part of. She said: “I don’t get much of a chance to do anything just for me at the moment, with George away and the kids always around, but I found space to get involved in this.”

Circular Arts have recently organised some stunning displays of batik flags in front of Salisbury Cathedral and at Mottisfont Abbey in Hampshire.

National Trust staff at Lacock Abbey are looking forward to seeing their immaculate lawn transformed by the flags.

‘This is going to be a wonderful sight’, said Rachael Holtom, Visitor Experience Officer, ‘The flags will light up the front of the Abbey and provide a marvellous opportunity for interaction, as you wonder in and around the flags and admire the artwork. It should be a great photo opportunity.

‘We are especially pleased to be hosting a community arts project and that Circular Arts invited one of our local clubs, the Lacock Evergreens to take part’.

The installation coincides with Heritage Open Day on 8 September, when Lacock Abbey participates in the free admission scheme to many fascinating properties.  At other times, normal admission fees apply with free entry for NT members and under fives.

For more information please call 01249 730459 or www.nationaltrust.org.uk/lacock

The Rebirth of Handmade Photographs

At a time when digital photography is king and analogue photography seems to have fallen into the dustbin of history, the Fox Talbot Museum is looking to the past to find the future of photographic art.

The latest museum exhibition, Handmade Pictures, is the work of Jesseca Ferguson who uses a pinhole camera and prints her images on paper made using a 100 year old technique.

From its earliest days, photography became an art by combining the aesthetic eye common to all artists in selecting the scene to shoot and a command of the technical skills necessary in creating the final print.

Tome-XXIV-Argyrotype Fox Talbot“As good as digital photography is, many photographic artists miss the hands-on feel of analogue photography” said Roger Watson, Curator of the Fox Talbot Museum. “The ease of making pictures using digital cameras and a computer printer goes against the grain of artists who are used to working with both their eyes and hands to create art.”

Jesseca is a Boston artist who chooses to continue working outside the technological mainstream. She uses basic pinhole cameras to create negatives and then prints them on fine artists paper using hand coated 19th century processes, in particular the cyanotype and salted paper prints.

Jesseca Ferguson said: “The poetic aspects of pinhole photography are what draw me to it.  Although the pinhole camera is ‘blind,’ because it has no viewfinder or lens, I find that it ‘sees’ in mysterious ways.  The pinhole camera’s ‘sight’ grants infinite depth of field to the object and images before it, thus allowing us to see the camera’s pinhole vision, which is characterized by the odd clarity of dreams or memory. Working without a viewfinder, I can’t know exactly what my pinhole camera will give me, thus my camera becomes my silent and enigmatic collaborator.

“Usually I work in my own studio, setting up arrangements of images and objects culled from my “museum of memory,” which is my personal collection of oddments, books, and artefacts.  Using only natural light, my exposures often take several hours.  I then contact print my images using 19th century techniques (or modern versions of antique processes) requiring ultra-violet light.  My work is slow, hand-built, and cumulative, rather like the layering of dust or memories over time. “

Roger Watson explained that, 100 years ago as photography became available to a much wider range of people thanks to hand-held cameras with film which could be easily processed, some photographers turned back to older techniques and processes in a bid to make photography an art form.

“We appear to be at another of these turning points where digital printmaking has become, on the one hand, so easy that anyone can make a basic image or on the other hand, so complex and expensive that it must be printed by an expert. In order to separate themselves from the crowds, some photographers have once again turned to the art of hand printmaking. For them, the final object must contain both the art and the craft of photography.”

More information on the exhibition is available on www.nationaltrust.org.uk/lacock