My visit to the Minchenden Oak in Southgate was on a quiet summer Sunday morning, about 10.30-11.00am. I found the scenes quite difficult as the sun was so powerful it was hard to bring out detail in my photographs. The sun was more or less right behind the oak tree and towards its top, due east as it would be at that point in August, and very strong shadows were an issue. Flash was used to help with getting more detail, yet I was intrigued by what I was seeing, as figures leapt into my imagination.
The formation of odd, strange figures though, created by the combination of shadows/sunlight and on board camera flash is something I am sure others have found. Its difficult to get well defined examples though. The favourite of those I took that morning is what I would call the woodsman, or someone carrying a bag made out of dead animal skin or other old material slung over their shoulder.
The woodsman close up, with what seems an owl peering through his arms. Is that a boy clambering up on his back?
The arms and upper body are clear as day! The left hand arm is raised and involved in some kind of activity such as carrying a an old piece of wood (for walking or to scrape the ground looking for food) whilst the arm on the right, its hands are resting on the figure’s waist. The head and face are very obvious, down to the detail where his hair is roughly cropped near the neck. Even the ear can be discerned.
As for the backpack, at times I thought it might be a monkey because there is clearly a tail that can be seen, although if it had been a backpack this could well have been some rope or loose material hanging down.
There weren’t monkeys in England’s forests so maybe it was some other sort of animal. On the other hand it seems it might be a very small boy trying to clamber up on the man’s back as they walk through the forests. One of his legs slips as he tries to clamber, and that leg accounts for the tail I had earlier perceived.
The woodsman is not apparent from further away.
Knowing this tree is from an ancient woodland, woodsman may be the most appropriate description. Maybe it was a man who once lived in the forest, and the tree remembers him somehow? This is bordering a bit on fantasy and myth but its nice to know that the connotation exists and of course it doesn’t remove entirely the fact the tree remembers the man. After all, stranger things have happened!
The other little detail within the backpacker is the owl. Peering through his right hand arm can be seen what is indeed an owl-like figure! Its amazing because a pair of eyes can be seen and the owl’s body is brown, exactly like they are in real life. Maybe it was a man who loved animals and protected those that inhabited the forests of old?
Strange thing with a face, neck and headgear!
Viewed from the other side the face is still apparent and the headgear too!
There was what on the other side what I perceived to be some large bug eyed monster, or a skull of sorts with very strange head gear, and then from another perspective it seems to take on the shape of a fist. Certainly within these faces there was yet another, its outline could clearly be seen.
Taking this to the extreme, one could say the woodsman represented the old world where everything was in balance, there was harmony and wars didn’t exist. And on the other side, the latter image, the strange headgear creature. As if its showing us a peaceful harmonic world that once existed, and the disharmonious present and apocalyptic future.
Some gnarled old creature! Your guess is as good as mine!
These figures on the west side of the tree are not defined like the backpacker, so its up to the observer to decide what the images represent. Its almost a sort of natural art work where subjective interpretation makes a huge difference.
Looking at another part of that strange headgear creature, the rear of it in fact, there seems to be an owl, yes another! Its head and upper body can be seen and one of its claws is up in the air.
The second owl on the tree!
See also: The Minchenden Oak – Southgate