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This internationally important site is 540 acres and attracts about half a million visitors a year to its spaces. The area is remarkable for it’s abundance of deciduous trees only occasioned by conifers.
The area in the late nineteenth century was earmarked for development (nothing changes!) however Burnham Beeches were saved by the corporation of London in 1880 who bought the area for the relaxation and enjoyment of the working population.
Perhaps the most outstanding feature of the woods is its ancient Pollard Beech Trees; these trees are not normally known for their longevity however pollarding or indeed coppicing lengthens their life spans very significantly. Some of these trees are several hundred years old and are rich in wildlife.
The area has two ancient monument sites; it is criss-crossed with footpaths and maps are frequent throughout the woods which is just as well as it is easy for the casual visitor to get lost. There are toilets available as well as two cafes however there is some local doubt to the future of the cafes as there are plans by the City of London to take over the running of these establishments.
Most of the roads are closed to traffic, though disabled people can get access to these by prior arrangement. There is a very handy pub on the perimeter of the woods and there is plenty of car parking; the woods also boast a large green which is very popular as a recreation area.
So much for the intro; what is there for the photographer? In a word, loads! Burnham Beeches does not give up its pictures lightly, time spent looking for images is not only time well spent but thoroughly enjoyed.
The peak time of the year for photography is Autumn when Burnham Beeches reaches the height of beauty, splendour and magnificence in Autumn colours; catch the woods when they are bronze just after a rainfall with low sun and the sight is world beating. UK Autumn is generally regarded to be the last week in October and the first in November however Beech trees are later than the norm and to catch them at their height it is necessary to visit the wood normally the second week in November and sometimes the third if it a particularly late Autumn as in 2006.
Autumn is not the only time for photography in the Beeches; just after the Bluebells have died (it must be noted that Burnham Beeches is not noted for it’s abundance of Bluebells) Beech Trees look very attractive with the freshness and newness of their leaves and it is then that Infra Red followers get some wonderful images.
For those interested in outdoor portraiture Burnham Beeches provided the perfect backdrop with many old fallen trees providing seats for your subjects.
During the months of September to November many Mycologists spend time scouring the woods for fungi which are abundant here and provide many opportunities for the photographer.
For the Black and White photographer there is plenty of texture and even expression from the old knarled Beeches as they continue to age.
There is no problem whatsoever from anyone in authority regarding photography, tripods can be set up; the usual observations about children of course to be borne in mind; Burnham Beeches indeed run photographic competitions on a regular basis and the City of London seem positively to endorse photography.
EPZ have had two meetings at this site both of which have been thoroughly enjoyable and I strongly suspect that numbers will increase year on year.