Au­tumn in the Fôret de Bercé, La Sarthe, France

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ailsa mcWhin­nie, fea­tures editor

Fu­ji­film X-T3, 50mm, 1/1300sec at f/2, ISO 3200 I first vis­ited this for­est when I was 10 years old. Mainly ses­sile oak, its knot-free trees were the wood of choice for build­ing French naval ships. They are now used mainly to make casks.

For me, its his­tory is more per­sonal. Over the past 38 years, I have walked among its bare-twigged trees in win­ter, as buds begin to form in spring, when the green­ery of sum­mer al­most threat­ens to suf­fo­cate, and through an­kle- deep golden leaves in au­tumn. My vis­its be­came more fre­quent af­ter my par­ents made a per­ma­nent move to a nearby vil­lage, and af­ter my fa­ther’s death, the oaks, pines and birches were stead­fast when I felt any­thing but. More re­cently, they have pro­vided a refuge from the anx­i­eties that are an in­evitable re­ac­tion to deal­ing with a lone ag­ing par­ent. It is im­pos­si­ble to walk among them and feel any­thing other than com­plete calm.

One morn­ing in Novem­ber this year, while vis­it­ing my mother, I woke up to a thick fog. There was only one place I wanted to go, tak­ing my re­cently pur­chased Fu­ji­film X-T3 with me. I criss- crossed through the for­est for a cou­ple of hours, des­per­ately try­ing not to sim­ply fire off shots in ev­ery di­rec­tion. I chose this im­age be­cause it en­cap­su­lates the still­ness and si­lence of a place that has been so im­por­tant to me. I’d never seen it look­ing so stun­ning.

By the time you read this, my mother will have moved back to the south of Eng­land. I don’t know when or if I’ll re­turn to the for­est again. I will miss it.

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