The Guardians


Kingley Vale, a National Nature Reserve near Chichester in Sussex, is known for its yew forest, reputed to be one of the finest in Europe. The oldest yews are all on the valley floor, with younger trees on the slopes.

The yews have, in most of the areas that they grow here, crowded out the shorter-lived tree species. Among the younger yew trees, the effect is eerie (it is well shaded, with little ground cover and the massed trees have an odd monotony of form. It is also strangely quiet: there are relatively few birds). Among the celebrated older trees (it is said that many are over 2000 years old), there is more variety – and, even in the variable February light, more photographers.

While yew bark can be surprisingly colourful, with reds and purples and vivid greens in evidence, it was the shapes of these distinctive characters that I was interested in, so I worked predominately in stark black and white, adding a little brushed-on colour to indicate the feathery effect of the dark, evergreen foliage

The Guardians (of Kingley Vale), 16 x 12 inches, inks on kaolin-coated board

The Guardians

16 x 12 inches, inks on kaolin-coated board


Media note: All the inks I use have a high light fastness rating. Most are pigment inks and are sold as “India(n) Inks” – this term traditionally refers to the black ink made from lampblack, which is the black that I use in these drawings, but some manufacturers use it to describe their ranges of similarly robust coloured inks.