Explore the ancient trees of the New Forest

Discover more about the ancient trees of the New Forest National Park in a new exhibit from photographer by David Russell. 

My interest in the New Forest National Park has been lifelong.  I first moved to the New Forest when I was 9 with promises of Robin Hood behind every tree and I have loved it ever since. I went to school in Southampton and then I studied photography at Bournemouth College of Art.

Most of my working life as a professional photographer has been in and around the New Forest, so it was natural for me to undertake this very personal project.

Puckpits Beech, New Forest National ParkPuckpits Beech in the New Forest National Park. Photo credit: David Russell.

The inspiration for this work came from conversations with Nick Evans who was then Senior Policy Officer at The New Forest National Park Authority.  At the time he was deeply involved in organizing ‘The Ancient Tree Hunt’ in the Forest and his enthusiasm and passion for the woodlands sparked the idea.  Sadly he passed away in 2017 and consequently I have dedicated this exhibition to his memory.  

I have been very fortunate to have had the support of the New Forest National Park Authority throughout this project. 

The New Forest is a unique environment and is internationally important both for its flora and fauna. Within its bounds there is an unusually large concentration of ancient and veteran trees. They are the survivors of the nation’s demand for hardwood timber, particularly for shipbuilding and construction. Most of these trees have been recorded thanks to the Woodland Trust and the Ancient Tree Hunt but my approach has been to try and express the beauty and ambience of these trees within their own individual environments.  They have lived their lives within these woods for centuries and most will continue to live long after we are gone. I feel it’s important to record the fleeting moment when our paths have crossed.

Knowles Beech. Photo credit: David Russell

All the trees of the New Forest are deeply important for both our mental and physical wellbeing.  They are now under new threats from climate change, disease and development. We need to have a greater awareness of the fragility of these eco systems that are so vital to us all, now and in the future, for own the sakes and that of our descendants.

David Russell's exhibit on New Forest's ancient trees can be seen as the New Forest Centre in Lyndhurst and runs until 8 July. The centre is open daily from 10.30am to 4.30pm.