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Alphabet Challenge – M is for Mindless Morons

Photograph by Jonny Gios -

I literally finished writing the latest instalment of the Alphabet Challenge last night and was due to post it later this evening. However, I am sure that many of you, will by now have seen or heard that overnight the iconic Sycamore Tree at Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland has been mindlessly cut down by someone with a chainsaw.

When I first saw posts appearing on social media earlier today, I thought they were a joke or from someone wanting to increase their following. In the past, usually on the 1st April, similar posts have appeared. Sadly, this is not a joke and reality dawned when I read the press release from the Northumberland National Park.

I would love to share one of my photos of this iconic landmark, but sadly despite walking past it many times, I never got the opportunity to take a ‘proper’ landscape photo and now I never will. A big thank you to my fellow landscape photographer Jonny Gios who sent me a couple of his images to use. There has been such an outcry of rage on all social media channels today, then I am sure it won’t be too long before a petition is raised to replace the tree, that a donation page is set up and somehow, they will be able to transplant a Sycamore from somewhere else in the country into the very spot where the original once stood. I am not sure if that is ethical, but I can see it happening.

I can still not comprehend why someone would want to do this and let’s hope that once they are caught, they are prosecuted to the full extent of the law. In this day and age, I can’t image that they haven’t been caught on CCTV driving into or out of the surrounding area.

As a landscape photographer, I feel very privileged to be able to capture our landscapes. I would like to think that some of the images that I take, will live on long after I have gone. Even if this amazing old tree is not replaced, the iconic images of it will last forever.

The events do however provide a natural Segway into a question that I get regularly asked, which is where I took a specific photograph and how do you get to that location? It is something that I have thought a lot about in the past and is firmly back on my mind again today.

In the future, I want to do a series either via blogs or on YouTube about photographing the North York Moors. Where to go, when to visit, how to get there, equipment you will need etc. Some will be well known landmarks, whilst others are well kept secrets. Who knows, in time I might even do this in other National Parks across the UK. It is one of my ‘keeping me busy during retirement’ projects that I have given some thought too.

But here is the quandary that I have always battled with. The well-known photography locations are being systematically destroyed by too many visitors. I regularly take litter away from these sites that has just been dumped. Cars are parked without respect and in many cases just abandoned on the side of the road, without thought for others. Natural paths are not being followed. Rocks have been covered in graffiti, and trees have names carved into them. I haven’t even mentioned the impact on the local wildlife. These are the well-known areas and sadly I think it is far too late to recover their natural beauty, without closing down access for a few years and then charging for admission. Don’t get me wrong, I am not blaming photographers for this damage. We are all usually far too respectful of our environment. However, the unintended consequence of posting our images online, is that it draws attention to these areas, they become known to masses and the cycle begins. Which is why I don’t share the locations of lesser-known spots that I photograph or indeed I won’t post images of them at all on social media. I know many landscape photographers adopt a similar approach. My dilemma is always that I want to help as many people as possible and believe that our countryside should always be accessible to everyone. I wish I had an answer, but sadly I don’t. Events like today only strength my resolve to protect our environment, to document the beauty of our landscapes for future generations, because it we don’t change our attitude towards the world we currently live in, before long there will be nothing left for anyone to enjoy.

Photograph by Jonny Gios -

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