This picture was drawn to accompany the following observations made during a recent visit to Worcestershire. It took may hours to work out what to do and I had originally planned a black and white illustration. I am fairly happy with how it urned out though its complexity significantly slowed down my iPad which meant I struggled towards the end to tighten it up. I worked in Affinity Designer without a clear idea of where I wanted to go which again made it difficult.
The writing here was written mostly in-situ with later editing to aid readability.
A little after 7pm on a September evening and the sunlight catches the tops of the cider apples trees. There is a great majestic presence of an oak in the orchard. Towering above me with its solid deeply fissured trunk and heavy evenly spaced branches, the tree holds its great domed canopy over the smaller orchard trees. It isn't a solid network of leaves and branches but, one formed so it appears, of distinct clumps of leaves evenly spaced over the its outer perimeter. This allows the background sky to be seen as fragmented pale blue patches with developing creamy pink and grey clouds, each catching the last of the day’s sunlight.
There is complete stillness, not even the faintest of breath to persuade a leaf to move. The faint tapping of a woodpecker can be heard a little way away. The hum of a distant combine, crows, pigeons, chirping birds, sheep and an occasional dog create a subtle background ambience.
The neat rows of cider trees, some bearing bright green apples, others tinged with pink, line the hillside. This oak stands amidst them, possibly twenty times their age, as a reminder that the passing of time in nature is so different to our own lifespan and the changes man brings to a landscape.
Beneath the tree, acorns have fallen, landing on the carpet of soft mown grass, well kept to ease harvesting the apples later in the autumn when the trees are mechanically shaken and the apples swept off the ground by a tractor drawn harvester and loaded into trailers.
A tawny owl hoots. Colours around me change to reflect the more orange-gold light of the sun and, as dusk deepens, it fades to give a more even light that balances out the shadows.
I am surprised at how tall and open the tree is. The lowest branches are a good eight feet or so above the ground and there is no easily discernible browse line. It must have grown with relative ease in the clay rich soil near the bottom of this valley and out in the open too. Free from surrounding competition and with only a few signs of once broken branches it looks like it has had a good life.
A sudden rustling of the leaves around me comes as a surprise and then I feel the breeze around me too. The boughs catching the fading sun have turned to orange and the sunset is obscured by the apple trees. Clouds have taken on more coral colours, deepening with pinks blending into the cream. The breeze subsides, then returns in a more gentle manner before disappearing again to an almost imperceptible whisper.
A flock of seagulls passes noisily overhead.
To leave a great tree like this must surely have been a sign of goodwill by the farmer. He has planted the apples leaving a gap in the rows for the tree. There is another oak about fifty meters away and I can’t recall many isolated trees like this around here. There are many in hedges such as the one on the top of the hill where I am camped or within woodland. I can't remember what these fields looked like before the orchard was planted. If I could remember back 50 years or so to my childhood I would have known.
I look more closely at the evenly deeply fissured trunk and notice that at a height of around eight feet there are the stumps of branches that have been neatly sawn off. The lower branches were removed at some stage, presumably to allow orchard tractors to pass underneath without damage to either. This would account for the shape of the tree. The other tree nearby though, has no indication of this. Its shape is less of an umbrella, and more compact with a denser canopy. It has more lower branches close to the trunk thus you can't see up into the structure of the inner branches. I note that each tree is exactly in the middle of an apple tree row, so the orchard was laid out around the trees - well, give or take a couple of feet. I would have to talk to the farmer to clarify any of my observations. Agricultural practices can change quickly. These cider orchards may only be ten to fifteen years old so the oaks could see many more changes if they hung around for another hundred years or so.
As I walk away the nearly cloudless horizon has turned a definite pale orange colour. More orange than pink or green or blue. A bright pale orange, gradually deepening. A huge gentle arc across the whole field of view and over the silhouetted horizon of the western hills.
Across the valley on the opposite hillside, smoke from a bonfire hugs the ground for a mile or so, drifting gently down into the valley.
Another day has passed.