In 2004 Derek came across The Heritage Trees of Britain and Northern Ireland, a book published by the Tree Council, with photographs of over 80 special trees, scattered across the length and breadth of the United Kingdom. He describes what happened: "Reading this book, I was drawn to these survivors - stalwart, resilient and beautiful. Their powerful images and stories haunted me, until I came to realise that I had to see them for myself. In April 2015 my wife and I set off in a camper van to look for them.
Some were easy to access, such as the First Dawn Redwood in Cambridge Botanical Gardens and the Tolpuddle Martyrs’ Sycamore. Others were more of a challenge, like The Layered Beech in the dark woods of Kilravoch Castle and Ely’s London Plane in the private grounds of the former Bishop’s Palace.
By the late summer of 2017, we had found all but four of the trees. My sketch books were bulging with watercolours and preparatory drawings. Back in my Suffolk studio, the emotional power of the great trees stayed with me as I tried to express my awe and admiration in paintings and etchings. I had been deeply moved by my close encounters with these natural beings, these silent witnesses to generations of change. Now I wanted to explore and share the experience. My exhibition in Aldeburgh, June 21st to 27th, 2018 represented my latest efforts in that direction."
A fully illustrated book of Derek's original sketches is available. Title image: The Great Yew of Ormiston, Drypoint