New Nature magazine

A few years ago I had an article published in New Nature magazine about my time in the Cheviot Hills in Northumberland. In autumn last year I pitched another article, this time about my visit to Anagach Woods in Grantown-on-Spey, my all time favourite area of woodland. There was no room in the autumn issue but it has just been published in the first issue of 2020.

New Nature is written, designed and produced entirely by young people. It features the work of ecologists, photographers, ecologists and writers. Its purpose is primarily to entertain, but with an underlying mission to celebrate wildlife and encourage its protection. I feel proud to be part of a project run by the younger generation and know that I have contributed alongside a team of talented and passionate individuals.

To read the latest issue of the magazine, click here.


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Up in the Air

The plane roared to life and I experienced the age-old feeling of excitement whenever I fly. As we chased the runway and the plane slowly lifted, I pressed my face to the window to see the ground fall away. I will never tire of that feeling of utter weightlessness – the peculiar thought of something so bulky taking to the air.

I’d been invited onto my boss’s plane for a morning trip to Naples, a city in southwest Florida looking out onto the Gulf of Mexico. We were flying to break in a new engine, and planned to refuel in Naples before returning to Yulee. It was a whistle-stop state tour, a four hour round trip that would take twelve in a car.

Within moments of take-off we were over the beach – long piers stretched out into the sea like the teeth of a comb. At 9am on a Saturday the beach was almost deserted. It was a treat to see so much uninterrupted sand before the tourist tide came rushing in.

We curved back inland and passed over a maze of river and marshland that I had already explored by boat, but this time we were too high to look for egrets. The only movement was the white streak of a lonely boat as it navigated the watery trails. I wondered how many alligators were down there, then decided not to think about that.

The marshy solitude of Amelia Island dissolved into towering office blocks, and I soon recognised downtown Jacksonville. There was the Landing, where I’d been just a week before the shooting. It had been enough to dissuade me from visiting downtown again, but I still had fond memories of the river walk, the MOSH museum and the topaz blue water of Friendship Fountain.

Leaving vast, sprawling Jacksonville behind, the landscape was soon dominated by trees again. Green was undoubtedly a primary colour in Florida – a patchwork quilt of field and forest stretched as far as the eye could see. In some places the trees were confined in tightly packed cubic parameters. In others, they were sprinkled sporadically. Criss-crossed over it all were the highways, dead straight lines in parallel and perpendicular.

Fluffy cumulus clouds were gathering, and a rather ominous feeling began to grow in my stomach as we bumped over them. Sunlight poured into the stuffy cabin, which did nothing to suppress my queasiness. Because of the new engine, we had no choice but to fly low. While the views were still stunning, I was somewhat distracted by the turbulent ride, and as Naples came into view I couldn’t help feeling slightly relieved that we’d be getting out of the clouds.

Once down on the ground, we stopped just long enough to stock up on drinks – fuel for the plane, a Gatorade for me – before taking off again, back through the spectrum of concrete jungles and green wildernesses.

Minimalism in Photography

Recently I discovered a photographer called Petros Koublis during research for my photography project. In preparation for my upcoming trip to the Isles of Scilly, I was exploring the theme of isolation, as on Scilly geographical isolation has resulted in extraordinary diversity of both flora and fauna. So, I want my images to convey this seclusion without the subjects looking barren. When I found Koublis’s work I thought how beautifully minimalist the images were, and yet still varied and intriguing. The beauty was its simplicity.

Petros Koublis 11

So I set out and tried to capture my own images where the subject looked isolated but was still thriving. Inspired by Koublis’s minimalistic approach, I concentrated on simple colours, repeating shapes and uncluttered compositions. Using my 60mm macro lens, I de-cluttered the frame even more and filled it with my subject while washing out any detail in the background.


I almost always zoom in as tight as I can, especially when doing macro photography. There is a great urge to make your subject as large and detailed as possible, but often I’ve found that this removes all context from the image and it loses some impact. While it’s always nice to have a little mystery in photography, revealing a few secrets can bring even more magic to an image. For example, the lichen on the twig below was only a few centimetres in diameter, but with nothing to compare it to, all scale is lost. Now the image has been taken, the lichen could be any size and the challenge of getting such a tiny plane of detail in focus doesn’t seem as significant. Although the texture is still intriguing, the presence of something more familiar could only have added to the effect.


So on another trip out I began to step back. Although I couldn’t achieve the same crisp detail with more distance between myself and the subject, I could begin to introduce context and place the subject into a scene. An isolated section of this terracotta brick could have been taken in a garden or even at a construction site, but with the border of dry pebbles and the blurred suggestion of ocean, the subject is put in a time and place. As all photography is subjective, those with a fine art approach might say context isn’t necessary, but I like the way this image is clearly of the coast but it isn’t conventional in its composition or choice of focus. It suggests the theme more subtly. Also, the absence of any other noticeable features conveys the isolation I’m interested in showing, and shallow depth of field draws the eye immediately to the subject.


I’ve always been interested in shapes and lines in photography. Although perhaps a beginner’s cliche, a leading line is undeniably pleasing to look at. Here, the point of focus is the very centre of the image, with the tide line leading the viewer directly to it. It is loosely symmetrical, a technique I like to use to show balance and calmness in a scene. Here, there are two clear halves; one is almost completely lacking in detail except thin lines of movement from the tide, and the other has extensive detail. To emphasise this contrast even further, I desaturated the right half so even colour was absent from the water. I never excessively manipulate my photos as I like to replicate the true scene as much as I can, but subtle changes like this (when the colour of the water was almost grey anyway) can draw attention away from certain aspects in the frame to others.


My Scilly expedition is fast approaching. I can’t wait to see what opportunities arise during my week’s stay on such a diverse archipelago. I think practice shoots like these will help broaden my creativity in preparation for a whole new environment.

Life in the Forest

For my latest university project, I explored the concept of forests and what people have to say about them. By creating a survey, I gathered a range of intimate stories that reveal just how important the forest habitat is to us all, for many different reasons.


Peaceful. Majestic. Timeless. Forests are a vast and highly diverse habitat with a different meaning for everyone, and provide the perfect opportunity to get time and space away from regular life. To find out just how significant forests can be, a recent survey was conducted, uncovering some varied and intimate stories.

“Forests remind me of home. While standing in any other habitat you surround yourself with nature, but the forest is the only one that swallows you.”

Despite our love for woodland, Britain and Ireland are some of the least wooded countries in Europe, even with the presence of approximately 13,000 ancient trees. Some of these have been standing for over a millennium. This, when compared to the human lifespan, seems an eternity.

“Woodland is a much-loved feature of the landscape,” writes Sophie Lake, author of ‘A Guide to the Wildlife Habitats of Britain and Ireland’, “Stepping inside an ancient wood can be a welcome escape from the monotony of the abrasive, urban environment.” For lots of us, forests are holders of secrets and memories, paving the way for personal reflection and relaxation that cannot always be achieved in the bustle and noise of our everyday existence. Forests enable us to lose ourselves, literally and figuratively.

We admire forests for their natural beauty. Most noticeable of all the seasons is undoubtedly autumn, when frost, crunching leaves and a flurry of excitement in preparation for winter really brings them alive. The forest is not just important for the survival of hundreds of forest-dwelling species but also for ourselves. We are nemophilists – that is, we have a deep fondness for forests and woodland – and have childhood stories to tell of long days spent climbing trees, collecting conkers or watching birds.


“I went on aimless walks as a child – my mum and I used to collect pretty sticks and stones. I’ve always been surrounded by forests and even if I wasn’t in them physically, their presence was always there.”

Forests are a place of play, where children dream up kingdoms and magical lands. There is an undeniable magic to forests that we first discover during childhood, but this stays long into adulthood whether or not we care to admit it. We ask ourselves what exactly it is about a forest that makes us shed our deep-set cynicism and embrace childlike wonder again. Perhaps it is the seclusion that the trees provide that prompts a split from the real world and allows our minds to wander, creating a barricade that shields us from reality. There is also the enchanting way that many wild, forested places muffle our connection to technology, rendering our phones useless. We are cut off from the outside world so we must embrace wilderness, and that is when we realise what we’ve been missing.

“I was convinced I was Mowgli and went running off – ducking to make sure I wasn’t seen by any creatures that might be lurking in the woods. I wanted to stay there forever.”

As children we see and savour so much more, with no limits to our imagination. The rumble in the bushes is a prowling tiger, so we pick up a stick and have a sword. By spending time in the forest as adults, we see nature with fresh eyes. Senses that have been dulled by noise and brightness are now reinvigorated to appreciate new marvels – the sound of birdsong, the smell of conifers, the sight of leaves coated in frozen, silver crystals. It is not until we return to a forest that we remember what a surreal place it is, full to bursting with secrets.

After a recent trip to Kidland Forest in the Northumberland National Park, with over five thousand acres to explore, all these feelings came flooding back to me. The forest was silent; listening while others threw sounds into the air. An abandoned tyre swing creaked, a tawny owl called, but the trees stayed hushed. Each one has survived bleak winters, dry summers and overseen a thousand births and deaths. Seeing such colossal larch trees stretching into the sky put into perspective how powerful and significant the forest landscape is.

“A favourite memory of mine is an enormous old oak that I used to play on. Its limbs went on forever – the sheer size was incredible and it’s amazing to think of the memories it might have held.”

Our love for forests must surely be from the respect we hold for these vast, natural structures that have been standing for centuries while generations have come and gone. These unmoving, unspeaking elephants with trunks of bark and thick, deep-set roots have a majesty that is easy to overlook. They begin life as a seed we can hide in our hands, but will eventually, and inevitably, dwarf adults and children alike.

“Spring is fresh and green, summer is full of birdsong, autumn brings the golden colours and in winter it is a stark place, with all the tree branches exposed scratching lines across the sky.”

Forests in November are patchwork blankets of green, orange and brown, where the trees shine like fiery beacons. It is autumn at its finest: an explosion of colour with just the right amount of chill in the air. Arranged in rows like ornately dressed soldiers, trees stand in silence, the sort of hush that comes just before something long-anticipated. The sun shines in slanted shards, illuminating certain branches and leaving others in chilled shadows. The forest is a drug – beautifully addictive. Its costumes are always changing throughout the year. This season: orange is well and truly in.

The forest is particularly wonderful because it never dies. Whatever the season, there is something happening. Come September, the temperatures drop and the rain persists, but new life is always arriving. Leaves fall and curl up into dry husks, but from amongst them sprout fungi, mushrooms of every colour that decorate and cloak the tree roots like nature’s Persian rug. Soon the nights will be cold enough to freeze, and come morning when the weak sunlight breaks through, millions of miniscule ice sculptures cling to every surface, each one unique. The forest is a menagerie of sights, smells and sounds; even with the wind and rain, the last few months of the year bring breathtaking beauty.

“Every Christmas morning my mum and I have breakfast in the forest. The whole place is frozen and beautiful. I remember how big it was and that I’d never see all of it. That just made what I did see more special.”

Christmas is undoubtedly a time of magic, and forests can be the perfect place for festive celebrations. Businesses are using this to their advantage and hosting holidays in wood cabins and yurts deep in picturesque forest locations; with ever advancing technology it is becoming even easier to find the perfect wild spot. If done sustainably, encouraging a greater participation in the forest can only be beneficial. Being surrounded by the winter chill with perhaps a sprinkling of snow is idyllic – the presence of such an enchanted habitat accentuates the beauty of winter.


“It is the ability to put to one side the complexities of modern life and modern living and to escape into a world seemingly untouched by the industrial intervention of man.”

Forests are vast, varied and can accommodate everyone. They offer the freedom to forget the modern world for a while and spend time in true wilderness. Walking through a forest feels like stepping back in time, where nothing is artificial. The forest is vast, yet its size and range never seem ominous. Barren and haunting depictions of woodland always resurface around Halloween, painting a rather commercial picture of a scary place, but a forest in autumn and winter is as enchanting as one in midsummer, perhaps with even more wonder.

“I think forests are irreplaceable and I need to go there regularly to remind myself of what’s important.” 

Many people surveyed for this feature revealed that they spend time in forests for meditation, thinking and to enhance creativity. The fact that being surrounded by trees encourages this self-care is truly humbling. In our otherwise hectic existence, minds preoccupied with material wealth, a brief moment spent surrounded by peaceful, green silence allows us to step back and put all of these worries into perspective. And that is worth more than anything money can buy.

Northumberland: Day Three

There was no frost today, but the sun was shining brightly and I knew the larches on the hills would be lit up like fiery beacons. We only had the morning, as we were leaving the bothy just after lunch, so first I headed out with Cain to pick up the camera traps. I was wrapped up in my fleece but was soon peeling layers off – the weather was surprisingly warm today with such bright sunshine and little wind.


Just before we returned to the bothy to check the footage, Cain took me to see the huge troops of orange fungi up the hill by the clearing. I’d just been saying how little fungi I’d seen, but I was soon proved wrong when I saw how many there were up here. Sprinkled all the way along the track were small orange bulbs of every shape and size. Some were illuminated in patches of sunlight, which made their colours shine even brighter.


As I was stooped on the ground photographing the fungi, I heard a bizarre sound that reminded me of an angry cat. I turned and saw the outer layer of trees swaying in the growing wind, releasing the most peculiar creaking noises. Cain explained how these trees would usually grow on the inside of the forest, but due to felling they were now on the outer layer and were struggling to cope with the battering elements. Some had already succumbed, and we passed gigantic trees lying flat on the forest floor, their roots larger than tractor wheels.


Out in the open, the wind was a lot stronger, so we ducked back down and sought the shelter of the forest. We gathered everyone in the bothy and had a look to see if the traps had been successful. Sadly, the two I had put out only had footage of my bobble hat as I attached and detached the trap from its post. However, Cain had put one in the garden and this had filmed several clips of a bank vole darting in and out of the rock pile. Later in the night, a wood mouse joined the scene, distinguishable by its longer tail and much larger Mickey Mouse ears. So, the traps weren’t a complete disaster, but certainly no pine marten footage.



  • Bank vole – on camera trap (Myodes glareolus)
  • Chaffinch(Fringilla coelebs)
  • Kestrel(Falco tinnunculus)
  • Robin(Erithacus rubecula)
  • Wood mouse – on camera trap (Apodemus sylvaticus)

Experiencing Drumburgh Moss

The word ‘Friday’ springs to mind many different things: summoning the willpower to get through one more work day, making plans for the weekend, working out how best to spend your wages. What isn’t immediately apparent is a trip to a lowland raised peat bog.

I spent Friday morning wading ankle deep through mud that threatened to rob me of my Wellington boots, clutching for dear life onto my camera and hoping I’d stay upright.

This was a field trip to Drumburgh Moss, an RSPB site that we’re studying as part of our module ‘Interpreting the Natural World for Media’. We have the choice whether to base our report on this site or Derwentwater.


On arrival, we were expecting to be met by our tour guide, who would show us around the site. Instead, we were greeted by an adorable and very inquisitive Exmoor pony, who wasn’t at all alarmed by the large group of wrapped up two-leggeds that had arrived on his patch.


Despite being buffeted by the wind, we were very lucky with the weather. Our tutor Alex told us that last year the group had endured pouring rain, so for that I was extremely grateful. The Lake District is undoubtedly beautiful, but also temperamental.



Having visited in the winter months, there was a distinct lack of wildlife apart from the wild ponies. However, there were definitely signs of life in the bog. A sharp-eyed friend of mine spotted an adder skin in amongst the grass, the silvery ghost of its previous owner.


I’d never been to a peat bog before, so it was interesting experiencing a new habitat. Despite not being the prettiest of environments, it is without doubt a vital part of our countryside. Peat bogs can be thousands of years old, and are capable of storing large amounts of carbon dioxide because of the mosses and lichens that thrive there. As a result, the conditions become anaerobic (without oxygen). This prevents decomposition of dead plants, so they accumulate and form peat.

The destruction of peat bogs releases all this carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, contributing further to the already drastic effects of global warming. Therefore, it is of utmost importance than these habitats are protected.