MB Photography | Projects | Survivors of Carnau Gwynion


The lone tree may be a shallow photographic cliché, but the reasons for its existence run much deeper and are often more disturbing.

When visitors to the Brecon Beacons are told that the English translation of Fforest Fawr is Great Forest they might well be surprised. With the exception of the modern areas of forestry monoculture there are few trees to be found on the upland slopes of this part of the National Park. Centuries of deforestation by man to provide building materials, cooking and heating fuel, and for quicklime production removed almost all the trees from this landscape. The more recent grazing by domesticated livestock has ensured that the land remains tree free. As George Monbiot says, "Sheep have reduced most of our uplands to bowling greens with contours".

This series documents the remaining trees on Carnau Gwynion in Ystradfellte. Primarily of the hawthorn family, many of these trees now cling to life by a thread soon to die from old age and storm damage. Continual grazing ensures that very few new trees will grow, and those that do will have a tortured existence clinging to the limestone pavement while new growth is continually nibbled away by sheep and rabbits. They appear in these images mostly as lone trees, not just out of photographic choice, but because they are significantly spaced out to make it challenging to include more than one at a time (although I have in some cases). Each of them is a reminder of the effect man has on the environment and how managed our supposedly "wild" places are.

Images from this series have been exhibited at Littleman Coffee in Cardiff and No 18 Cafe in Crickhowell. If you are interested in exhibiting any images from this series please contact me. Individual prints can be purchased by browsing the images below. Buy the book of the series on Blurb.

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All Images © Matt Botwood