Earlier this month I spent a very inspiring long-weekend with friends by a secluded lake in Cambridgeshire. We rented a lodge which had been built on the side of a former gravel pit lake just outside the village of Maxey. Although I’m aware of how quickly nature can re-assert itself .. I wasn’t prepared for a landscape which it had so thoroughly and almost convincingly taken back!
I much prefer woodland which is long-established and undisciplined, where the trees over time have become almost as much horizontal as vertical, where the decay and regrowth of generations can be felt on the nose. So I was surprised that the thin woods which fringed the lake could give me so much of this impression, even though they can’t have existed there since much before the 1970s when gravel extraction finished. It rekindled my interest in an idea begun last year, NatureMake, an organic construction toy for those who always got more from whatever was at the bottom of the garden .. as far removed from Lego as one can go.
But there was also something not quite right about the woodland .. as if the race to reclaim the ground came at a cost, or to emphasize that the show could only be skin deep for now. Everywhere trees were either keeling over or splitting like balsa, either they couldn’t root deeply enough or the ground was still too loose to support them. The fir trees were leaving skeletons behind as nature ate back the softer parts first.
The young lake itself was film genre Placid .. unusually motionless for much of the time, but quick to ripple with goosebumps at the slightest touch of any wind. I was expecting veils of mist in the mornings, but these weren’t needed for enhancement .. the light remained soft enough throughout. The way it isolated plantlife at the water’s edge, caught between still water and reflected sky, made me think of Japanese ink painting.