Crackley Woods

In this magnificent ancient woodland, veteran oak trees, silver birch, beech and ash combine with a multitude of plant and funghi species to provide rich habitat for one another. The wood is a mass of interacting components that rely on each other to function. Trees roots connect with the mycelium of funghi to form a mycorrhizal network, or ‘wood wide web,’ through which trees exchange nutrients and information. These networks take hundreds of years to develop, making the biodiversity of ancient woodlands much richer than new plantations.

The Artworks

Sounds of Crackley Woods: Birdsong in winter, HS2 construction noise in the background.
‘Bulbous.’ Carved red sandstone. 11x8x8cm
‘Bulbous.’ Carved red sandstone. 11 x 8 x 8 cm
‘Fruit.’ Clay maquette photographed on location in Crackley Woods.
‘Truncated Chestnut.’ Acrylic ink. Conte. Collage. 62 x 42cm
Hazel Coppice in Crackley Wood. Pencil drawing with digital colour.
‘Hairy Curtain Crust Version1.’ Acrylic ink. 42x62cm
‘Hairy Curtain Crust’ version 2. 62 x 42 cm Acrylic paint
Paintiing the Hairy Curtain Crust back in my studio.

In 2020 the northern section of Crackley Woods was destroyed by HS2 ‘enabling works’ during the spring nesting season. Hundreds of veteran trees have been felled, the area cleared and the topsoil scraped into heaps. This soil will later be spread over nearby land in a process called ‘translocation.’ However there is no scientific evidence that this will enable any significant regeneration of biodiversity.

The southern part of the wood remains intact and is currently open for visitors. This is separated from the destruction by the Greenway, a popular bridlepath which ironically follows the route of a railway closed in the Beeching cuts of the 1960s. Here, spectacular sweet chestnut trees alongside the path make great climbing sites for children. Years ago this wood was coppiced and this practice has been reintroduced in parts by Warwickshire Wildlife Trust volunteers to improve habitat diversity for wildlife. In May visitors can enjoy a blanket of bluebells dotted with wood anemone, yellow pimpernel and common dog-violet. The soils here are acidic, sandy and clay which suits wood sage, foxglove, bracken and golden-saxifrage around the ponds. Fungi species include tawny grisette, dog stinkhorn, birch polypore, jelly ear and beefsteak fungus. Badgers, barn owls, sawflies and hoverflies also thrive here.

During my visits in 2021 I was fascinated by the twisting forms of the chestnut trees and fruiting bodies of funghi which grow on fallen branches. These are the visible manifestations of the ‘wood wide web,’ or mycorrhizal networks, which enable the woods to thrive. The bulbous forms of Birch Polypore, the vibrant orange of Hairy Curtain Crust and translucent domes of Jelly Ears inspired collages, drawings and a carving made from local red sandstone. Please see the blog for more work in progress and information about red sandstone.

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