Sequoias Resurrected

Muffled up and walking in the park, that bright harshly cold midwinter morning I was horrified  to see what had happened to the Sequoias.
I’d identified three Sequoias, or Redwood trees,  in my local park a while back. I’d recognised them by their yew-like needles, their tall regular ovoid profile and red spongy bark, and I checked them out,  spoke to them, whenever I passed through the park. But the needles of the Sequoias that winter morning had turned an  awful lurid orange, the colour of the underside of a slug, or the nasty neon of cheap orange squash. It was as if they were shedding their needle leaves, yet as far as I knew Sequoias – Coast Redwoods (Sequoia Sempervirens)  and Giant Redwoods (Sequoiadendron giganteum)  –  were all evergreen.  I made a concerted effort to call on the Sequoias every few weeks over the rest of the winter and watched in dismay as the trees seemed to wither away and die.

Dawn Redwood in Cherry Hinton Hall Park

Dawn Redwood in Cherry Hinton Hall Park

I thought and read about Coast and Giant Redwoods a  lot for a few months, learning that Sequoias are the largest, tallest and oldest trees on the planet, there is fossil evidence going back 5 million years.  And although native to north west coast  USA, since the 1860s they have  become quite popular transplants in parks and botanic gardens across Europe, indeed Redwoods seem to grow larger, faster  and stronger in European soil than in their native habitat. In the website Redwood World ( I found an invaluable information resource and exchange, with a county by county list of redwoods in the UK,  there was no mention of Redwoods  in  my local park, only trees in the University Botanic garden and newly planted saplings in private gardens.
Although I thoroughly researched Redwoods it wasn’t clear to me why they appeared to be dying, there seemed no evidence of insect infestation and our local park has no large animals, like deer or cattle, to eat the trees, I began to assume environmental failure.
In googling image searches I tried to distinguish the two species and identify which species  was  dying in my local park. My local specimens were most like the Coast Redwoods (Sequoia Sempervirens), red burnished bark glowing in bright spring leaved green, growing tall, straight and wild in endless sun dappled groves on the internet. I was pretty sure  my park Redwoods were not Giant Redwood (Sequoiadendron giganteum) which seem to exist primarily in freak-of-nature type photographs – tiny human standing by stupidly enormous  tree, or  a cabin made from a single hollowed out log , or tunnelled through for a road, I decided that all those implausibly-giant-tree photographs on the web  are either CGI or Giant Redwoods. My redwoods although clearly mature were still small enough  to encircle with my arms, small enough to hug.
Then, one solitary park-walk in mid-April  I noticed the Sequoias gleaming with that tentative nearly-bursting  leaf-bud mild- halo of green, just like the park’s oaks, ashes and conker trees –  it looked to me like the Redwoods were miraculously coming back to life. Sequoias resurrected. I spent quite a while with one of the trees, noticing new growth, leaf shapes, patterns and sizes, and then I rushed home, giddy to google “deciduous sequoia”.
That was how I encountered the third member of the Sequoia family – the  Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostrobides), a tree believed to be long extinct, an ancestor to Coast and Giant species , known  only as fossils. Then last century  a stand of deciduous Sequoias were  discovered in China, it took until 1946 for the connection between the  Chinese  trees and the fossils to be made. To prevent final extinction seeds were gathered in 1948 and distributed to universities, research facilities and botanic gardens around the globe.
The Dawn Sequoia  is characterised by its deciduous nature and the leaflets occurring in opposite pairs on the stem, apart from this, for a lay person,  there really is nothing  to distinguish the Dawn from the Giant or Coast Redwood. The outline of the Dawn and Coast  are almost identical  and they all bear the distinctive bright spongy red bark.
All three trees in my local park are mature enough to produce cones  and to have reached  their current size they  must have come from the earliest batches of seed distributed in 1948. I have contacted the Cambridge Botanic Gardens and Redwood World website to see their thoughts, and it will be interesting to see if I can discover the story of these three rare trees and how  they came to be planted here, in a suburban Cambridge park.

Dawn Redwoods at Cherry Hinton Hall


Gaunt’s House Labyrinth 2012

In December 2012 I took this series of photographs of the stone-laid labyrinth at Gaunt’s House in Dorset.

The Labyrinth at Gaunt’s House is a classic seven-circuit labyrinth in turf and brick, laid out in the private grounds of a Dorset Retreat Centre. It has been used for meditational and spiritual purposes by visitors to the house since it’s construction around the turn of the millennium.

In December 2012 I was staying at Gaunt’s House for a fortnight volunteering. We were painting and decorating a cottage on the grounds, in exchange for bed and board. READ MORE

Gaunt's Labyrinth 2012

Gaunt's Labyrinth 2012

View more photographs HERE

Posting on Bella Basura’s site

Skull Collection

This being the season of the Wild Hunt I thought I’d post up my work on cataloguing my Skull Collection, which I am archiving in the Gallery. Skull Collection – number 1 The first skull in my Skull Collection was a housewarming gift, left by an unidentified previous occupant, who in a pique of randomly directed maliciousness thought to curse me. Perhaps it was directed at the landlady – a plausible enough explanation, but I chose at the time to see it as my own personal gift-curse. A bit like having three wishes to bestow, except it wasn’t, it was a single dead-eyed curse. I was an undergraduate in Northampton in the late 1980s at the time, and I had just moved out of shared accommodation into a self-contained bedsit…read more… Link to Images

Fasting with the Fool by Doc Gordon Tripp

Quotes from the article “Fasting with the Fool –  The Seven Progressive Stages of Consciousness Under Fasting.
By Doctor Gordon Tripp

“As a form of reality distortion the practice of fasting has a long and august history. Starvation was certainly twisting the minds of our Neanderthal forebears long before they hit on sativa, somniferum or muscaria.
Fasting is well established as a prelude or preparation for a whole range of spiritual practices across a panoply of religious and folk traditions.”

Some of Doc Gordon Tripp’s experiences:

“Exhausted with cold I crawled with chattering teeth into a vague half-aware sleep. Only to wake suddenly into silent darkness, not knowing where I am, I am wracked with hunger. I realise that I haven’t eaten since leaving Cambridge, who knows how long ago. The dreadful cold seems to have frozen the mechanism of my wristwatch. I rummage through my ruck sack again, searching for the large slab of Kendal mintcake.”

“Lethargy momentarily engulfs me and I wonder again how I could have got so lost. I struggle to my feet, stomach cramping, clutching the internet map, and begin limping through the thickening trees, in a direction I imagine to be south.”

“I was awake, immobile and cold, encased in all the clothing from the ruck sack, the djellaba, blanket and bivvy bag. I find myself to be suspended from a branch by my rack sack straps, dangling precipitously over a steep drop down to melt-water swollen rapids coursing through rock strewn channels. My head feels empty, gently throbbing at the temples. I don’t know how I came to be here…”

“I begin to fear for my sanity as a gross bubbling urge to chuckle inconsequentially grips me by my watery bowels. Like after a building and unrelenting urge to defacate, the released laughter splashes and splatters from my body. Am I laughing? Am I vomiting? Am I shitting? I can’t tell, my diary notes don’t say. I roll hyperventilating in slushy snow, pukie-crappa-giggling or somesuch. I am so hungry. I want to cry. I am lucid suddenly and astonished at the diversity of this terrain, I never knew Morocco could be so varied.”

“I am drenched in sweat or snow, I know not which. I fall into deadening sleep. I wander between snow-laden trees, the path I had cautiously picked out in the thick forest seemed to have disappeared, swept away by fresh snowfalls”

“I believe my failure to identify my geographical dislocation was partly due to having no previous personal experience of either Marrakesh or Mongolia…”

Read the full article here

Cambridge Creates Anthology Volume 2 in the pipeline?

I have heard on the air and at the pricking of my thumbs and in the voices of my head that Shakey Navel-Bones is contemplating a reprise of the splendid Cambridge Creates Anthology. A second volume, in fact.

So, just to pique your interest again, or to engender envy if you failed to get a copy last time round…is a reprise of my previously unpublished review of Cambridge Creates Anthology from 2011

Cambridge Creates Anthology
A compilation & celebration of art within our community.

There are 78 individual contributions listed in the contents to this stylish new anthology of contemporary Cambridge art and writing. The striking and intriguing cover design halts the attention, like an unfamiliar logo, and draws the reader in. My first impression was of abundance, where to begin, no obvious path in. I scanned the contents and found a name I recognised – Jonny Wrong and started in from there, taking in Sadie Few, Nicky Smith, Trishna Shah, Bella Basura and ‘Anonymous’, amongst others, along the way…more