Photographing Rendlesham Forest, Suffolk

Rendlesham Forest is a fantastic place for forest photography and a great way to explore a more creative approach to image making.

Photographing Rendlesham Forest

A damp forest path jewelled with the colours of autumn leads me through a glade of silver birch trees, their white trunks reflecting the weak seasonal sunlight. The early morning mist has cleared but the forest remains in its dewy clutches, water droplets cascade to the woodland floor as the branches above are jostled by a gentle puff of wind. Spiders webs glisten with the lustrous shimmer of a thousand diamante dew drops and the ground underfoot is spongy and fragrant. 

I continue along the well worn path as it winds deeper into the wood, the sense of isolation and solitude building the further I go. The trees grow thicker here and are more uniformly coniferous. Planted in straight lines their density limits the amount of sunlight able to filter through to the forest floor. Layers of pine needles deposited annually form a soft carpet infused with glades of bracken now autumnally russet and golden.

I am exploring the edge of Rendlesham Forest, a large swathe of Forestry Commission land which was planted in the 1900’s. Principally a coniferous plantation grown for the commercial production of timber, the early wood had little wildlife value due to its dense regimented planting and limited biodiversity.

In 1987 much of this original forest was destroyed by the great October storm which swept across the southern half of Great Britain, flattening over a million trees in Rendlesham alone. Although it seemed calamitous at the time the winds opened up large areas of the forest which today have developed into grassy glades fringed with broadleaved trees.

Further and ongoing redesign and management has now seen Rendlesham grow into multi functional habitat for recreation, timber production and wildlife conservation with a much greater diversity than was offered by the original plantation. Forest species now including the nightjar, crossbill and woodlark as well as numerous deer and other small mammals.

Despite Rendlesham’s popularity as a recreational area it is still possible to find some fantastic hidden locations oozing with peace and solitude. This is one of those locations that has no obvious iconic focal point – there are no tripod holes to fill and no single spot to which photographers flock. Photography here is all about creativity, vision and seeing something beautiful in a less obvious environment. 

Rendlesham can be accessed from various places all of which have something different to offer. The forest centre car park will allow walking access to may of these and there are a whole range of paths and circular walks to guide you around the forest.

Some of my favourite areas can be accessed from Upper Hollesley Common car park. Here the landscape is more heath interspersed with areas of silver birch, deciduous tress and some areas of conifer planting. The combination of silver birch and pine can create some fantastic contrasts and these work especially well in the spring and autumn when the colours are most vibrant.

Nearer to Boyton along the Phoenix Trail there are a couple of ponds and several areas of marshy ground where the River Tang flows through the forest. The river is not much more than a stream but it flows through some beautiful areas of silver birch forming pools and marshy areas as it goes. There is an abundance of wildlife here and kingfishers are regular visitors to the pools.

This is a diverse area for photography and there are tiny scenes begging to be photographed wherever you look. Seasonally spring and autumn are my favourite times to visit but whenever you visit the possibilities for image making are endless.

More information about accessing Rendlesham Forest can be found on the Forestry England website

Photographing the Suffolk Coast

If you would like to find out more about the area I have published a “Guide to Photographing the Suffolk Coast” which can be purchased below.

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Gallery of Rendlesham Forest, Suffolk