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Read The Great North Wood

Read The Great North Wood

Long ago the whole of Southern England was covered in forest. Over time, this woodland has been gradually cut back, but small patches remain amidst the suburban sprawl of South-East London. A few ancient oaks still stand in the gaps between housing estates, alongside railway lines and acting as boundary markers on roundabouts. The magic that once filled the ancient forest can still be felt even when the trees are long gone. Memories of the Great North Wood are recorded in the place names – Forest Hill, Honour Oak, Norwood. Stories are told of the bandits, outlaws and gypsies that once roamed the forest, and their presence can sometimes be sensed when the hum of the city is quiet. Tim Bird’s longest work to date continues his interest in psychogeography and how memories live on in the landscape.

This was an odd collection of brief comics about the loss of the Great North Woods to the south of London, and specific places and trees that used to be important. It’s a remembrance of what was, and a recognition of the special nature of old growth forests, though it didn’t quite come together for me as more than the sum of its parts.

The joke is that housing developments are named after what they destroyed, which holds true in England as well. It’s on the one hand sad to recognize the habitat lost, but on the other it’s a small memory of history. The vignettes of specific places were interesting.

What makes me saddest about the loss of forests like this is that people didn’t recognize the value of what they had, and squandered it – old growth forest going to make charcoal *shudder* At least in buildings it lasts a long time.

I can only hope that five hundred years from now we’ll have saved new old growth forests for people who live then.

By Tracy Durnell

Writer and designer in the Seattle area. Freelance sustainability consultant. Reach me at tracy.durnell@gmail.com. She/her.

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