Ancient trees with wet feet

This December I’ve been away tree-hunting – I was so ready for a road trip!

These journeys are like mini residencies for me – they are intense periods of research, exploration and new developments. They’re an essential part of my process, connecting me back to the old trees and their stories, eventually stimulating whole bodies of work.

An open wood pasture in ScotlandDrawing on location in Langholm

My original plan was to stay in Aberdeenshire as there are some great tree drawing locations I wanted to return to there. Sadly the whole region’s woodlands were devastated by Storm Arwen and my accommodation and drawing locations were closed to the public. It will take decades to recover from and I really feel for the tree people there.

an easel in a courtyard patioI found a last minute place to stay near Langholm in Dumfries and Galloway, a great cottage with a courtyard I could use as a studio space.

According to the Ancient Tree Inventory the area had some potential new sites to investigate with the kind of ancient trees which inspire my work. This is a fantastic resource and citizen science project – you can find out about trees in your area and how to add your own finds here. It’s of immense value for protecting our special trees.

Finding Aldery Sike

I’d identified some sites to explore, one being just down the road. A small burn was marked on the map as Aldery Sike, so that’s become my name for the location.

I found a large collection of ancient alders there which appear to be a remnant of ancient wood pasture, now surrounded by heavily sheep-grazed land and grouse moors. These trees are a living link with a past way of life and show evidence of extensive coppicing and pollarding. Wonderfully grotesque forms result from this traditional kind of management and the sheer exuberant inventiveness of the trees was captivating to draw.

a sketch of an ancient tree

They grow on a steep hillside which was streaming with water – I had no idea a bog could be quite so sloping! Alder loves wet ground, so they seemed very happy there. It was a magical thing to find such old trees with streams of water flowing around and through them – I had a feeling of reverence and wonder listening to it trickle past as I drew them.

artist sketching a tree

a sketch of a treeNow I know what special trees live there I’m planning to go back to Aldery Sike next autumn for a more focused drawing trip. Next time I’ll be taking a more extensive drawing kit (only had my sketchbook that day) and hopefully some more waterproof boots.

ancient alder with broken branch

Here’s a little video to give you a flavour of this special place


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A post shared by Tansy Lee Moir (@tansyleemoir)


If you’ve enjoyed reading about my tree drawing locations you can find more of them here.

See some of the drawings from my other ‘tree meetings’ in my Woodland gallery.