The authors visited Devon recently on the search for a number of trees and forestscapes for The New Sylva. Followers of The New Sylva on Twitter (@newsylva) will know that our first stop was the ancient oaks of Wistman’s Wood on Dartmoor, followed by a successful search for one of Britain’s rarest trees; the Plymouth pear Pyrus cordata, found appropriately in the city of Plymouth.

The trees of Wistman’s Wood are almost entirely pedunculate oaks Quercus robur, with scattered rowan Sorbus aucuparia and holly Ilex aquilifolium. The oaks are deformed and dwarfed by the exposure and altitude (400m), their branches and stems festooned with mosses and bearded lichens, and clumps of polypody ferns. The granite boulders, which protect the trees from grazing sheep, are clad completely in a carpet of mosses. It is a magical place.

Sarah Simblet drawing in Wistman’s Wood for The New Sylva

Sarah Simblet spent over five hours composing a drawing of the magical wood. Working with a hard pencil (3H), so as not to permanently stain the paper, she developed the composition that she will later work up in pen and ink at her studio with the help of many photographs. Every trace of pencil will then be erased in readiness for scanning the drawing so that it can included in The New Sylva.

The Wistman’s Wood forestscape will contrast greatly with another oak scene that we have planned to illustrate one of the greatest productive oak forests in Europe.


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