Trees of Marchmont 1

Hugo’s ‘Tree of Wonder’

It wasn’t too easy to find but it was so worth the effort. On a breezy March day in the Scottish Borders, I headed up a hill with my tree drawing sketchbook and kit, through a disused quarry onto a moor, then into a remnant of an old plantation.

a very large beech tree

There in front of me stood a magnificent pollarded beech, vast in girth and rich with mossy bark and wet hollows. Huge limbs, encased in green spread low across the leaf littered ground. Its historical management contributed to this complexity of form and extent of decay, now providing habitat for the millions of tiny lives we cannot see. I could see why Hugo regarded it as wondrous.

a large old beech tree covered in moss

I felt very small while drawing it and didn’t quite know how to begin translating something so impressive into my sketchbook. I just began tracing the twists of the trunk and the flow of the branches, and the awe subsided a little as I settled into looking. Those first sketches are rarely satisfying drawings in themselves, more records of a moment of meeting. This was a meeting to remember.

a sketch of a tree

I’ve been here drawing trees as part of my preparation for the Marchmont commission. I’ll be adding more blog posts on the project as it progresses – if you’d like to read more start here.