The Beeches come to Burnham

Visual Arts Project with artist Lynda Cornwell

The project is a celebration of the ancient beech trees living in Burnham Beeches National Nature Reserve and SSSI. The long history of the wood and the traditional management practice of pollarding in woodland pasture have led to the existence of very mature and gnarly beech trees that provide rich wildlife habitats. The older trees have provided inspiration for artists since Victorian times, and our project uses visual art as a mechanism to help children learn about and connect with the ecology of the site.

Different school groups from Burnham village visited the nature reserve together with local artist Lynda Cornwell. The young people explored an area of the forest in search of the oldest and most interesting trees. They worked with Lynda to record their findings and their responses to the wildlife they found, through a combination of film-making, photography and drawing.

Following their visits to Burnham Beeches, Lynda worked with the school groups to develop their sketches and images of the trees into finished art works to be projected onto walls and windows on a large scale. The children's work will then form part of the illumination of Burnham High Street in the evening of 3 December 2010, as part of a Christmas Fair and Festival of Light organised each year by the Lions Club of Burnham and attended by approximately 3,000 people.

It is the aim of the project to help to connect children with the wildlife of Burnham Beeches, and by bringing our native giant beech trees into the village High Street in a re-invention of the Christmas tree lights tradition, we also hope to celebrate the importance of trees to our community and to our planet.