You may have noticed comments from a few of my blog posts about how much I love trees in winter. The colours of silver birch trunks in sunlight, topped with deep claret-coloured frondy branches are a particular favourite, but I also love trees of all shapes, sizes and colours when their branches are bare and their bark shines in winter light.
Wood, steel and iron are used to great effect by David Nash in his sculptural works, a large number of which are currently on show at Kew Gardens. If you get chance to go before it finishes in April, I recommend it, although at nearly £15 to get into the gardens, it's not a cheap day out.
When I went in December with some friends, we didn't get there till late in the day and unfortunately weren't able to take our time exploring the gardens, but we did manage to get round most of the sculptures and even had time to go up the treetop walkway, which by that time was deserted.
The sun was just going down so we got the last light of quite a grey day giving a lovely soft hue to the rusty brown of the Corten steel used on the treetop walkway and the smooth wooden handrails.
Nash's sculptures are scattered around the gardens, some of them situated to offer an intriguing counterpoint to other buildings or features of Kew. Many smaller wooden sculptures, such as the one shown above, are tucked among the plants in the temperate house.
I particularly liked the fact that it is often difficult to tell what material Nash has used until you actually touch it - some sculptures which appear to be scorched wood are actually steel, and those shown in the picture below are actually cast iron, which boggled my mind a bit when I started musing on the practicalities of transporting and assembling these sculptures.
I thought of these sculptures when I was out walking in Derbyshire last week and came across this fabulous jumble of steel that was strung on a chain and being used as a gate-closer.
Similarly, the bright green moss that clings to some pieces of stone on dry stone walls changes them from sharp, cold lumps of inert rock to something soft, welcoming and warm, not to mention providing a splash of glorious colour in these grey days.
It made a pleasing circularity to my holidays that on a visit to the Millennium Galleries in Sheffield we came across an exhibition about John Ruskin and landscape. One of the exhibits was David Nash's film Wooden Boulder, which I didn't have time to see at Kew. The film tells the tale of a 25-year journey by a wooden boulder from the Ffestiniog Valley in Wales down to the Irish sea. There is no narration, only brief subtitles where necessary, and I became fully absorbed in the journey of the boulder and the soundtrack, mostly rushing water or rain, or just the quiet lapping of waves; in a few cases, silence, when the boulder sat stranded on a sand bank.