This project was created between September 2004 and August 2005 and exhibited in different configurations from 2007 onwards.
Shown here are just 5 from the original series of 12 large images.

The project explored an area of woodland located on the edge of a reservoir in the Peak District and looked closely at the seasonal changes over the period of a year. As an unpredictable twist, the trees and vegetation are also susceptible to the extremes of flooding and drought. The reservoir is primarily used to keep the canal system replenished acting as a gigantic header tank so consequently the water level can rise or fall in a short space of time. The twelve images show the visual transformation throughout the seasons of just one small area and highlight just how different the same place can appear when viewed over an extended period of time. When seen as a whole series the viewer can see the subtle changes and the regeneration of nature throughout the cycle of a year.

12 large prints each 275cm x 43cm.

Gallery Oldham, 2008
 Buxton Museum & Art Gallery 2007       
      Astley Hall, Chorley
Flooded Woodland Introduction by Paul Herrmann, Director of Redeye
Every month, Stuart Royse returned to the same patch of English woodland to make a single huge panoramic photograph. The pictures are presented as a sequence over the course of the year. There is no obvious sign of human life; no rubbish, footprints or cut trees. We are invited to think that this area might have looked the same a hundred or ten thousand years ago. The spot is often flooded; it's cool and inviting in July, invigorating in October, frozen in March, dark in January. Taken singly, each image is an appealing forest scene, beautifully made and presented at a scale to draw in the viewer.
But as with much of Royse's landscape photography, things are not quite as they seem. The area is in fact on the edge of a reservoir that is used to keep a canal system replenished, so is constantly flooded and drained as the canals demand. The stamp of man is present in the photographs in a way that is both dominating and subtle. It is highly unlikely that a patch of woodland 10,000 years ago would flood and drain as often as this. We are only alerted to the human influence by the frequency of the flooding; and we can only see this because of how often Royse has returned to the same spot.                                     Royse is not a photographer who likes to hammer a point home. Instead we can enjoy these photographs on every level. As a record of a patch of woodland of the type that used to cover most of the country, and is now ever rarer, these pictures are expertly made. We also see a more honest picture of seasonal change in nature than is traditionally presented - the idea of there being four seasons is probably as much a myth as the seven colours of the rainbow; they are certainly not equal in length. And he neatly inserts variations on March and November, to remind us just how fickle are the season changes.
Another varying dimension is that of depth. While in winter the distant hill is the prevailing shape, by June the foliage is so thick that the dark knots of twigs and leaves seem to hem us in. But that's just my view; no doubt a forester, a naturalist, an environmentalist, a property developer, in fact everyone who takes the time to look a the photographs will each be able to tell us something different, and each have their own perspective on the work.
In a previous, very different series of photographs, Royse took us inside a cooling tower to watch the strange and hypnotic flow that goes on inside an object that we might have thought we knew all about. At heart Royse is an explorer, but not one who has to travel far; instead he looks inside and in between the things we think we know. In this instance, he has been driven to explore things close to home and remind us there is always something new to learn about the apparently familiar. And with Royse's sense of aesthetics and skills as a photographer, this is always a pleasurable experience.
Paul Herrmann
March 2006
"This project is an impressive and important piece of work on several levels. Visually both subtle and striking, it brings together scientific and artistic perspectives. At a time when our custodianship of the environment is of global concern, Stuart Royse’s images provide a unique and positive contribution to the debate and a moving reflection of the natural world. Intrinsically beautiful but also thought provoking, the project will speak volumes to its 21st century audience and deserves the widest possible viewing."
David Hanson MA,
FRSA Executive Director of Education, United Learning Trust UK
"Photographer Stuart Royse has the knack of making the ordinary seem extraordinary. I first witnessed his work when Open Country featured his source-to-sea study of the River Irwell. That longitudinal journey forced us to re-examine what was once one of the most heavily industrialised stretches of water in Britain. Through the lens of his camera, he demonstrated that we need not think automatically that the post-industrial landscape is lacking in beauty. His latest project is, in my view, equally attitude shifting. Taking a stretch of woodland as his starting point, instead of moving his camera through space he moves it through time and conjures up a series of super-size panoramic images. Viewed sequentially they show the constant shift of what appears, on the face of it, to be the singular but is in fact the plurality of life. The shift from season to season, month to month, day to day - sometimes even hour to hour - is at once both subtle and dramatic. For once the devil really is in the detail. Each image can take up to a week to construct but the painstaking work is worthwhile. Because the vantage point is always the same we’re forced to look beyond the big picture and realise, perhaps for the first time, that our aesthetic overview is really comprised of an emotional engagement with thousands of smaller components – leaves, twigs, raindrops, snowflakes, ice crystals... If you’ve not seen his work before I’d commend it to you."
Richard Uridge
Presenter Open Country BBC Radio 4
Back to Top