Ancient beech tree on Hungerford Common



Four years ago, in March 2016, I found myself driving across Hungerford Common with half an hour or so to spare before I was due to meet some friends in the town. The common is lovely (even on a fairly dull day in March) and was infinitely preferable, in my mind, to wandering aimlessly around antique shops (Hungerford has a lot of antique shops. Some of them even sell antiques). So I stopped for a walk.

I had a sketch book with me (of course), and my eye was quickly arrested by a large tree, its convoluted roots tumbling over a small embankment. It was fabulous! I didn’t really have enough time to do it justice (and it was a bit cold to be spending that much time on a drawing anyhow), but I knew it was a very special tree (although I wasn’t entirely sure what sort of tree it was at the time).

Since then, I have become increasingly interested in trees, especially big, old trees with complicated roots. I went back to visit the tree, equipped with a camera and the new, satisfying knowledge that this was a genuinely ancient beech (beech are officially “ancient” at 225 years old) – in fact, despite the large numbers of beech growing on the local chalk downs, this was my nearest ancient example (it’s about 18 miles away).

I hadn’t looked at that sketch since I drew it. I’m struck that I chose almost exactly the same angle to draw the tree from on both occasions.


12 x 16 inches, Indian ink on kaolin-coated board. Framed.