Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The rhododendron tunnel

click photo to enlarge
As a child I used to love the rhodies (as we called the rhododendrons) that grew wild in certain spots on Yorkshire's Craven uplands. Their purple blossom that filled the woods in May simply outshone all the other flowers. Not only was there more of it, but the individual blooms, to an impressionable boy, were just so large. At any time of year they provided dense thickets that were great for dens and hide and seek, and the glossy evergreen leaves even provided pretty good shelter from the rain when you were caught without a coat - as boys often are!

I knew that the bushes grew only on the millstone grit side of the Craven Fault, but at that time didn't appreciate that the soil's acidity there was best for the plants, unlike that on the limestone side. Nor did I know that they weren't native to Britain, but had been in introduced by Conrad Loddiges in the 1760s, and that many cuttings were acquired in the Himalayan foothills. And I certainly didn't know that the luxuriant undergrowth of Rhododendron ponticum that I enjoyed so much was viewed by foresters and naturalists as an invasive weed, and that attempts were being made to control its rapid spread.

When I lived in Lancashire I came across it on the acidic soils of the Forest of Bowland. On more than one occasion its impenetrable mass blocked my way as I walked through woods. On the November day of the photograph above we came across a lot of it, still full of green leaf (and the odd rogue flower bud) where other trees and bushes were bare or brown. This tunnel, near the village of Scorton is mainly composed of arching rhododendron. I asked my wife to walk ahead so I could frame her with the branches and also silhouette her against the light of the lane beyond.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 68mm (136mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f5.6
Shutter Speed: 1/80
ISO: 200
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On