The pandemic lockdown and our house move in November last year (with all that entails) prevented me from visiting Dunsford Wood for a couple of years – probably the longest I’ve stayed away. But now, happily, it’s only a 20 minute drive from our house, so I’ll be walking its paths much more often.
I’m publishing this at the beginning of December, while witnessing the advance of winter stripping the remaining leaves and bleaching the colours. If this post encourages people to visit, please be aware that these images were made two weeks ago, and much may have changed!
A couple of weeks ago I checked my image files for the date of my last visit, which proved to be 21st November 2019. The autumn colours then were about as rich as I’d ever seen, so I picked a date just a few days earlier than that for this year. And within moments of arriving at Steps Bridge I realised how much I’d missed the place. Those first few hundred metres along the River Teign mesmerise me.
Dunsford Wood is on the south eastern edge of Dartmoor, and is a steeply wooded river valley, rich in sessile oaks. Several years ago we had a holiday in Madeira (bear with me here), and I took with me Robert Goddard’s first novel Past Caring – knowing it was partially set in Madeira. What I didn’t realise until I began reading it is that it was also partially set in the Teign valley around Dunsford, and I spent several days of my holiday looking forward to getting home to Devon to try and identify some of the locations in the woods, the village, the course of the old railway and the station stops! But I digress.
In 2019 I created several multiple exposure images of the River Teign at this point. You’ll find some of them in my Portfolio section. I was reminded of why I made them immediately I saw this stretch of the river again. Through clear water I could see stones on the river bed, reflections of tree branches on the surface, patterns of swirling water, constantly changing, and leaves drifting downstream. How to capture all of this in one image, except as a multiple exposures ? I had to make more this year. Here are a few, and if you don’t like them, it’s ok – they’re included to try to convey an impression rather than details, and many people relate only to the detail. You can view these images at a larger size if you click on them.
I spent about 4 hours walking alongside the Teign, not progressing all that far, because the entire area was so rich in colour and potential. I couldn’t take many steps without stopping to soak it all up. I rather like these two images, but I’m still working on them:
To passers-by I seem to have been some kind of wildlife photographer, studying the detail of what was in / on / over the river, with a long lens on a large camera. A cyclist on the path stopped and asked if I’d seen anything, and I said I might have seen a kingfisher flash by, but couldn’t be sure. (I did see something flash by near the opposite bank and take off again from the water, almost faster than I could register, so it wasn’t necessarily a lie.) A few moments later a friend he was clearly riding with stopped alongside him and asked if I’d seen anything. His friend said he’d just asked that, so I felt I had to repeat the same possibility.
I asked if they were going far, to change the subject, and they mentioned Moretonhampstead, Fingle Bridge and several other locations totalling 18 miles. ‘Slightly further than me then,’ I said, knowing at this rate I’d probably go no further than 3 miles in total. They’d see more than me, and I, in turn, would see more than them. Just a few minutes later I met a lovely, small, shy black-and-grey dog called Lily and her kindly lady owner, and as a lover of cocker spaniels I could steer the conversation away from what I was doing and ask all about Lily. I met them again an hour or so later as they walked back, and Lily remembered me and wasn’t shy at all.
I continued, always choosing the left fork when the path split, to stay close to the river, knowing that, as always, I would take the alternative path on the way back. There’s a particular spot close to one of the points where the paths converge again, where I always look for a particular tree, which seems to stand as guardian to the younger trees in the very steep land behind it.
I knew I would reach a point in the path soon where the steep land on the opposite side of the river closes in, with a heady mix of detail and colour. In the past, I have often been too early to see this at its best, or a week or so late. This year I was neither, and the colours were probably the best I have seen in many years of autumn visits. I eventually reached a point where the colours were simply outrageous.
Oddly, after this, I felt a little autumn-drunk, and had the car been waiting for me at Clifford Bridge, I would have climbed in and driven home. I felt no longer capable of absorbing any further autumn detail or colour. It was time to find the path back, away from the river.
It was a little drizzly, quite cold, and I was getting hungry. I did make a few more photographs, of a couple of areas I’ve always enjoyed: the first to record the sheer detail of some of the trees on the land high above Dunsford, and the second of two trees with complementary rhythmic shapes that I can never resist and have photographed numerous times before. Before arriving back at Steps Bridge I found a log near the River Teign to sit on, took my camera gear off my shoulders (every bit as wonderful an experience as taking off walking boots after a 12 mile hike), and ate some sour dough bread and strong cheddar cheese.
I have chosen a selection of some of the images in this blog piece to offer as sets of prints, for anyone interested in purchasing them. I print these to order on excellent quality heavyweight art papers, and at a very modest price to make them affordable for the majority. There are two sets: Four ‘straight’ landscape photographs, and four multiple exposure photographs. Both sets are available in A5 format (148 x 210mm, or roughly 8″ x 6″), or in A4 format (297mm x 210mm or roughly 12″ x 8″). The A4 sets come in an archival box for protection. If you’re interested you can buy from my Etsy shop:
‘Straight’ landscape images here
Multiple exposure images here
I cannot, sadly, make it cost effective to produce individual prints at these sizes, and believe people are likely to feel more immersed in a series of images they can examine in their hands, than in a single much larger image hanging on the wall. I can, however, print any of these as a custom order, up to A3+ (483mm x 329mm or around 19″ x 13″) – so if that interests you please use the contact me page to request a quote for a given size.
Thanks for reading!