Discovering Places Project: Box Hill Flickers

06 August 2011

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Cherry Small, Rachel HensonCherry Small. Copyright © Rachel Henson, August 2011

Discovering the hide-outs of Box Hill’s rarest inhabitants: What lives under box and yew?

To create Box Hill Flickers, my first task was to find a route with a dramatic visual narrative arc; a walk that takes you somewhere unexpected.  I take still photographs every two or three paces along a route  to create flick book sequences which navigate a person along a particular path. When you flick though the sequence it is as though you are travelling along that path.

With the help of the team at National Trust Box Hill and Claire Horan of Discovering Places, I developed an idea to feature intriguing Box Hill species. This added another layer to my quest to find a route. It should to cross a variety of habitats so that I can include the most interesting inhabitants.

After a few days’ exploration, I discovered a hidden path that begins in ancient woodland of mixed deciduous and evergreens. As Peter Creasey, retired Box Hill warden, explained to me, this ancient woodland is a British version of a tropical rain forest; its richness of species and ecosystems have developed over hundreds of years. Then, as the path descends the hill,  this mixed woodland gives way to a silent forest of yew and box before opening out into the stunning butterfly and orchid rich meadows.

A question  kept coming up: What lives under yew? The answer: it is unusually silent in a yew forest. Both Peter and Ralph Hobbs, a freelance consultant formerly with Natural England, who helped me to match species to habitats, came up with suggestions: Goldcrests may live in a yew canopy. Wood ants have a unique relationship with box. You may find the webs of triangle spiders in yew branches. As to which species I should feature in the box and yew forest, the jury is still out. If anyone has any suggestions I would love to hear them.


Post by the artist Rachel Henson about Box Hill Flickers, a project commissioned by Discovering Places.

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