Sunday, 1 March 2015

Britain is no longer a country for and says "Goodbye" to an old TV scenic designer and unsung hero of Doctor Who called Barry Newbery

Barry, who is mainly, but not exclusively, remembered as the most prolific set designer on the tv series, 'Doctor Who' and worked on more episodes than any other designer in its 26 year history, from the very first black and white episode, 'An Unearthly Child ' in 1963 through to 'The Awakening' in 1984, a total of 64 episodes over 14 stories, has died at the age of eighty-eight.

What you possibly didn't know about Barry, that he :

* was born in 1926, in Lambeth, the same Central London borough as Raymond Cusick, three years his junior, later creator of the Doctor Who's 'Daleks', who would work with him on BBC TV when they were both in their thirties, was slow to develop his talents, having left school at sixteen during the Second World War in 1942 and served to obligatory two years National Service, attended day school to study engineering drawing which set him in good stead for his later career in set design and later recalled : "being able to draw rather academically - I knew if I could draw something and paint it to look like it, it was fairly easy to work it out in construction terms."

* in his early twenties in the early 1950s, having put in five years at Art School and after qualifications, found getting work difficult : "There were about 110,000 artists leaving art school at that time. I worked on Wandsworth Common as a labourer, but after a while I got a job as a draftsman/designer doing window displays. I did that for a year. Then two years with Olympia as exhibition designer and then then I got a job at the Beeb as an assistant" at the age of thirty-one in 1957.

* served his apprenticeship, learning to draw for tv construction as "an assistant for seven years. In that time I did acting design work" which involved work as 'Production Designer' in 1962 at the age of thirty-six, on the two-episode. 'The Last Man Out', a period drama starring Barry Letts as 'Captain Stuart', sent on a mission to Nazi- occupied France and then worked on an episode of Comedy Playhouse, 'On the Knocker' in 1963 before being picked up as one of two designers drafted in to replace Peter Brachacki, for the final three episodes of the first 'Doctor Who' story, 'An Unearthly Child' and commented later : "We weren't picked for our skill - we were just chosen because we happened to be free."

 * was left to recreate the original junkyard and school set, which had been destroyed following completion of the pilot and then went on, with confidence, to design the forest and caves where the Doctor and his companions faced the tribe of Gum, later saying : "it was just a matter of how your imagination went when you saw the script. You've got to tell the Director what he's going to get so you do sketches of it. You give him a plan so he can work out where his actors are going. That's how I did it in those days."

 * came into his own when teachers Ian and Barbara, found that 15-year-old pupil Susan and her Grandfather, known only as 'The Doctor', were visitors from 'another time, another world' and their home, camouflaged as a police box, was, in fact, a space/time ship called the 'Tardis' or 'Time and Relative Dimension in Space', were unwittingly transported back to his freezing Palaeolithic landscape, where they are seized by a tribe of cave dwellers desperate to rediscover the secret of fire : http://ow.ly/JL6sW

* for the first two years working on Doctor Who, shared design work with Raymond Cusick who took the sci fi stories while he worked on the historical, with his next seven part adventure in 1964 : 'The Roof of the World', where the Tardis landed in the 13th century, was claimed by explorer Marco Polo due and the reconstruction of the court of Kubla Khan necessitated his research for the sets using surveys of architecture and garden design and use of Sir Aurel Stein's archaeological study, 'Ruins of Desert Cathay', for the desert trek which made a large part of the serial's travelogue.

* from his research on travellers in Asia, saw to it that : "the way stations got better through the story and the last one I had a mong gate and running water into a pond with goldfish in it and when (Director) Waris Hussein came into the studio, he looked at it and jumped up and down and clapped his hands together like a little child. "Goodie, goodie!" he shouted. What a reaction, it was wonderful." http://ow.ly/JLcec but later recalled problems he had on set with the lighting technician : http://ow.ly/JLDgs (half way through clip).
 
* in 1964 worked had to recreate the city of Tenochtitlan in the Doctor Who adventure, 'The Aztecs' http://ow.ly/JLgLe  but found his chief problem was the recording in the small 'D' studio at Lime Grove, with insufficient space for the background cloth and unsympathetic lighting, which led to wrinkles in the city vista and recalled : "I wasn't particularly happy with the backdrop because if you're going to have painted cloth, it's got to be far enough away from the camera for the brushmarks not to be seen", but had his request to move the production to BBC Television Centre turned and faced  additional problems when half the sets were accidentally junked and destroyed before the shoot was complete.

* found source material scarce, but was confident enough, based on pictographic and ideographic writing systems, to oversee the manufacture, from fibreglass and wood, the clubs and shields of the warriors, as well as vases and plates, in the production of which, he was assisted by a small team of art students, but later reflected that the trouble with designing for 'Doctor Who' was the 'perpetual compromise' created because the show was treated like ordinary half hour drama with 'designers given same resources to make a story set in the Aztec empire as a story set in accountancy office overlooking Leicester Square.'

 * was fastidious in preparation for 'The Crusade' http://ow.ly/JMZug set in 12th century Palestine and televised in four parts in 1965 and "discovered that a lot of buildings in Jaffa were built by Christian masons who were there for the Crusades", who, while they were in the Middle East learnt the secret of building the pointed, as opposed to rounded Norman arch "which was much stronger and capable of taking more weight. Of course, when they returned fro the Crusades they bought these principles back with them, so I looked at a lot of English Gothic architecture when I was researching the interior of King Richard's palace."

 * was later philosophical about the fact that 1960s 'Doctor Who' episodes were junked : "I think it's a bit sad, but when I was doing it, they were programmes just like any others. I just enjoyed doing the work and 'Doctor Who' gave me the opportunity of improving my knowledge of history. Most of those I did were historical. I didn't particularly want to do science-fiction. It was wonderful researching them. I mean, I learnt quite a lot about 'The Aztecs' that I would never have known otherwise and the same goes for 'The Crusade'.
 
* worked on the 'Count of Monte Cristo' starring Alan Badel in 1964 and one episode of the police serial drama, 'Z Cars' in 1965 and a further seven 
episodes over the next seven years as well as the first Doctor Who Christmas episode, 'The Feast of Steven' and in the 'The Dalek's Master Plan'
http://ow.ly/JLmPb broadcast between 1965 and '66, recalled : "Trying to set up the scaffolding around the Pyramids. I had to find people who were old enough to remember how you did scaffolding with rope. I did a Thomas Hardy play, set in Dorset I suppose and they were building a house in it. It had to have scaffolding around it and I used the same method. I had to show people how to do it."

* in 1966 worked of the police serial drama, 'Softly. Softly' and another ten episodes over the next ten years and in the early 1970s worked on two episodes of 'The Expert' in '71, two of the thirteen episodes of 'The Shadow of the Tower' in 1972 , one episode of 'The Onedin Line' in 1974 and in 1976, two episodes of 'When the Boat Comes In' and the ' Dad’s Army' episode, 'The Love of Three Oranges'.

 * recalled that he enjoyed working on the four-part, 'Brain of Mobius' in 1976 because "it gave me the opportunity to design the kind of life you'd find on a parallel planet to Earth" and considered : "We have churches with buttresses on the outside, why don't we have buttresses on the inside?  Would that work?" and created the formal structure of Solon's Citadel where "the inside of that place that Philip Madoc lived in, the buttresses were actually columns at an angle", but was frustrated in his plans for constructions based on basalt hexagonal columns like the Giant's Causeway and forced to concede that : "Sometimes, though, you've got the ideas, but the money isn't enough to cover them."

* later reflected that : "It has been said that I based the design on the work of Antoni Gaudi, but that's not so. I didn't use Gaudi at all, although I did look at his buildings in my research. The only place where that influence did perhaps did show though was in the shape of the window in Solon's laboratory."  http://ow.ly/JLBqU
 

* was asked by producer Phillip Hinchcliffe in 1976, for the 'Masque of Mandragora', to create a more compact control room to occupy less studio space, took the early science fiction writings of Jules Verne as inspiration and based the console on a Davenport desk in an Edwardian setting, but saw, since the wooden panels could not survive storage between seasons, saw his new look only last one year http://ow.ly/JLBIv

* in addition, following the collapse of what remained of the original police box, designed a replacement to bring the traditional design, which in the event, was radically different from before, which although derided by some fans for its odd appearance, he crafted in direct response to the problems associated with the original model, with a timber construction which came apart for ease of transport and saw it subsequently feature to 'The Horns of Nimon'. 


* found that filming the T'he Masque of Mandragora' in Portmeirion away from the studio was : "The closest we got to being quite a collection of people together.We used to go down to the big hotel on the sea. Tom Baker was there, Liz Sladen, a few others so we used to meet in the bar and that was quite nice."

* was challenged by 'The Masque of Mandragora' set in 15th century Italy because : "Although I did history of architecture at art school, it gave me nowhere near enough information for it, so I had to research very thoroughly the period, not just architecture, but the way artists worked. I had an Atlas figure carved in jabolite and I said what I wanted, but when it was carved it looked like an elderly man. It was such a funny shape! Afterwards I put it in the garden and everyone used to stop and look at it. I think the sculptor must have been given the wrong information, because I never met him."

 * coped with 'The Invisible Enemy' http://ow.ly/JLBWL in 1977, being based on sci fi rather that history because "it was all high-tech, a bit like an airport waiting area. There was plenty of space, everything was white floored and white walled " and recalled, having drunk a bottle of gin with Raymond Hughes, the Costume Designer, going upstairs and  "watching the director trying to get the cameras to give the actors ( the Doctor and Leela ), instructions to get them to walk in exactly the right place. We sat and watched this, and I went in and said, "Do you mind if I have a go at this?" So I called out to Norman, who was the PA, and said, "Can you get them to do this, do that, etc..." and it all worked. Then I walked out!. I wouldn't have done that if I hadn't had half a bottle of gin!"

* had an interval of seven years before his next Doctor, in which time he worked on Edwardian sets in 1978 for the three- episode, 'Lost Boys' the story of  J.M.Barrie's relationship with the Llewelyn-Davies family and its sons, for whom he had written Peter Pan and starring Ian Holm (left), for which he won an 'RTS Television Award' followed by a further period piece in five of the six episodes of  'Prince Regent' 1979 for which he received a BAFTA nomination and 'The Citadel' in 1983, starring Ben Cross as a doctor working in a 1920s Welsh mining village and based on a 1930's A.J.Cronin story, 

 * returned to 'Doctor Who for' the last time at the age of fifty-eight in 1984 to work on 'The Awakening' http://ow.ly/JMZVI remembered that : "this is the one where the horse went through the lych gate, and I wasn't there. I didn't see it. I forget where I was, but someone came down to me and said, "Hey! The horse has just taken the lych gate away!"

*  retired from the studio when he felt things were changing and moving away from "a service designed to get things from your drawing into construction and into the studio" towards one where "freelance designers have to engage all their own contractors with the agreement of the associate producer. You'd have to know where to get all the staff from, and you'd be responsible for employing the carpenters and painters."

* took many behind-the-scenes photographs during his time on 'Doctor Who' and published a large selection in 'The Barry Newbery Signature Collection' in 2013.

* should be given the last word in which he dismissed his vast talent, with perfect self-effacement :

"It's very difficult to talk about a production because it's just work. You try to get this to look right and that to look as you believe it ought to and you never talk about the things that irritated you or amused you."

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Britain is no longer a country for and says "Farewell" to an old Pembrokeshire coastal artist called John Knapp-Fisher

John, acknowledged as one of Wales' most influential landscape artists with a  worldwide following, has died at the age of 83.

What you possibly didn't know about John, that he :


* was born in Kensington, London in 1931, son of Heather and Arthur, a then 43 year old architect, who had set himself up in partnership in 1919, became Professor of Architecture at the Royal College of Art when John was two years old, designed a number of schools and hospitals in the 1930s and St. John the Baptist Church, Stoneleigh in Surrey when John was seven and who he acknowledged when he was eighty as "a brilliant draughtsman, much better than me."


* was packed off as a boarder at St. Andrew's School Pangbourne, Berkshire, set up in 1934 as an independent preparatory school for boys bound for Eton, Harrow and Winchester and later reflected that : "I think my parents were despairing of my lack of ability. I was quite good at English and I suppose the only two things that I've pursued all my life are writing and painting. In childhood I wasn't particularly aware of art or painting or drawing, I don't think I was better at it when I went to school."

* made acquaintance of the sea at the age of 13 in 1944, during the Second World War, as a boarder at independent  Eastbourne College on the Sussex coast then moved inland to Kent in 1949 to study of 'Graphic Design and Typography' at Maidstone College of Art and after graduation in the early 1950s, served his two years National Service in the Army then worked in London as an exhibition designer and typographer.

* in 1958, at the age of twenty-seven made a reacquaintance of the sea as set designer at the Theatre Royal Margate in Kent and began painting, then worked at the Castle Theatre Farnham, married Sheila Bassett in 1960 and took the decision to become a full time working artist on his 'boat gallery' and sailed the rivers and harbours of Suffolk, including Pin Mill (left) with a land address in Hadleigh and a son and daughter born in Ipswich in 1962 and '64.

* later recalled that : "I resolved to make a living at my art. I work, in the initial stages at least, direct from my subject – direct from nature... I observe, feel and interpret. I do not copy. Nor do I invent, which is why I am not an abstract painter in the accepted definition of the term.”

* exhibited his paintings regularly from his boat around East Anglia where they were advertised locally and held a major exhibition in Suffolk in 1966 at the Festival Gallery, Aldeburgh, having already moved to Pembrokeshire, South West Wales in 1965, where he opened a studio gallery in Croesgoch, with its view of the sea, in 1967.

* began a career which would see him work in water colour, ink and oil to capture cottage, farm or church against the majestic, rugged landscape of the Pembrokeshire coastal area with his long, thin 'letter box' paintings in near monochrome becoming his signature style, never painted from photographs, always ventured out on foot or by boat, with sketchbook in hand at St.Davids, the harbour at Porthgain as he described to BBC Wales on the occasion of his 80th birthday : http://ow.ly/JEk37

* received accolades in the shape of : in 1992, at the age of sixty-one, election to membership of the Royal Cambrian Academy; exhibition of his work in the  National Museum Wales, the National Library of Wales and The Contemporary Art Society for Wales and in addition, in Britain, Europe, Africa and North America and the development of a large and loyal following with his biggest show in Johannesburg and a display of 65 paintings.

* in 2003 became a supporter of the 'National Literacy Trust', set up to motivate and inspire reluctant readers and fund a book-gifting programme targeting children, young people and their families in disadvantaged areas, by taking part annually in the 'Pushing the Envelope Auction', with celebrities putting their efforts to put pen to paper sold in an ebay auction and in 2008 was top seller with his mountainside cottage raising £3,000, in front of Turner Prize Winner, Grayson Perry's colourful motorbike and in 2012 raised £1,366 in front of Academy Award Winner actress, Dame Helen Mirren’s design.

* contemplated slowing down a little, at the age of seventy-seven in 2008, on the occasion of his exhibition 50 paintings, at Martin Tinney Gallery, Cardiff  when he said : “It’s a bigger show than I’ve had before and probably a bigger show than I will have again. It takes two years to get the work together so I don’t really want another large show for some time.”


* continued to paint and said : “I tell students to do something every day – even if it’s a quick thumbnail sketch. Rather like a dancer has to practise every day, a painter has to oil the hinges by doing little drawings”, but admitted : “It’s a lonely life really. One spends hours in the studio working on one’s own or walking around the countryside making notes. But I like it.

* said, on the occasion of his 2011 Exhibition at the Martin Tinney Gallery, with his scenes of striking white-washed cottages, Pembrokeshire alongside images of London and the Suffolk coastal town of Aldeburgh : “I’m well known for my dark, dramatic paintings but there are also some slightly more sensitive watercolours too. I think this collection is one of my best as I’ve been working towards it for two or three years. I shall not be going on to have too many more big shows – I’m more interested in retrospective shows now.”

* speaking on the BBC Radio Wales Arts Show to mark his 80th birthday, when questioned on his atypical studio in an old converted cowshed said : "People always say that you've got to have a good north light... I've never had a good north light in my life. You've got to be practical as an artist. There's no point in being airy fairy and artistic, putting a beret on and standing at a rickety easel; you've got to be very hands on."

* said : "I do like the older ways of life which are gone now. I mean to me life is not about sitting in front of a computer pressing buttons."

* in his passing, was paid tribute by the BBC :  http://ow.ly/JGBze and Huw Davies, of Harbour Lights Gallery in Porthgain, who recognised :

"He was dedicated to his work and had an incredible influence on Pembrokeshire and Welsh art. He was a great influence and friend to many artists and a mentor to many young artists. He was a very tender, gentle person and he would always donate pictures to different local causes. He was a beautiful man, a very special man and everybody loved him."

                        What better epitaph might an old artist have ?


Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Britain is no country for an old N.H.S. 'whistle-blowing' Professor of Surgery called Harold Ellis

Retired surgeon, Harold, who is 89 years old and has had a long and distinguished career in medicine is not a happy man and is almost tongue-tied with distress as he reflects on last week’s 'Freedom to Speak Up' Report on whistleblowing in the National Health Service by Sir Robert Francis QC, which revealed shocking accounts of bullying of staff who raise concerns about either sub-standard care or dangerous practice. Qualified as a doctor in 1948, he still teaches anatomy at King’s College, London, has been a whistleblower himself and is proud of it.


“I am just horrified. I just cannot comprehend how a situation could possibly happen where a person would have to fear suspension or bullying for raising proper concerns about the way that people were being looked after. It distresses me beyond measure. This would never have happened in the earlier days of the National Health Service."

What you possibly didn't know about Harold, that he :

* was born in the East End of London in 1926, to parents who were Polish Jews, his mother a dressmaker and father a barber, was educated at  St Olave’s Grammar School and at the age of 16 during the Second World War in 1942, gained a Government scholarship and place to read medicine at Queen’s College, Oxford and recalled that : “I didn’t know any doctors but I thought I wanted to be one.”

* found himself slightly fazed to be resident among the 'dreaming spires' while the War raged over London and his parents spent nights in a bomb shelter, then found that life really began for him when he went to the Radcliffe Infirmary as a clinical student.

Oxford 1948* qualified as a doctor in July 1948, in the same month as the National Health Service was created by the post-Second World War Labour Government http://ow.ly/JBeAM and became a 'house surgeon' at Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford, at the age of 22 and recalled that since hospitals were all nationalised during the War, there was no dramatic change : "it did not mean anything to us at all, we were just delighted to be doctors" and "it did not alter the way we did our jobs. All it meant was that our pay did increase from £50 to £100 a year, but then we lived in hospital and everything, including our laundry and our food was paid for, so our pay was just pocket money.”

* recalled that : "Each year we used to expect one or two of our medical students to be admitted to the sanatorium after contracting pulmonary TB. Being a Cockney from the East End of London I used to say, "I bet I am so immune I won't get it."  But getting poliomyelitis (polio) used to scare me as a medical student. There were a couple of epidemics and one of my chums died in an iron lung in the Radcliffe so I knew I did not fancy that at all."

* was assigned to a ward in 'Hut C', where the sister in charge was 'Sister Hut C. Ellis' who, with him, took joint and equal responsibility for every aspect of the ward and its patients and when, on one occasion when infection broke out, took it as a slur on their personal reputations and later said : “I saw it as my fault”, set to work to trace its source, which, when finally identified as being a “gooey tap”, he took immediate steps to clear and reflected that a few months later after cleaning was outsourced, getting overflowing lavatories fixed became much more difficult because it was no longer deemed the ward’s responsibility.

* in 1950, was called up to serve two years National Service as a captain and 'surgical specialist' in the Royal Army Medical Corps and after being demobbed, worked in turn at St James Hospital, Balham, then as 'Senior House Surgeon' St James Hospital, Balham (left), until 1953, followed by a year as 'Resident Surgical Officer' at Sheffield Royal Infirmary, another as 'Senior Registrar' at the age of 29 at Westminster Hospital, where he blew a whistle and reported hygiene problems in outpatients, which were sorted within days, before becoming 'Senior Registrar' at Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford.

* in 1960 at the age of 34, was appointed 'Senior Lecturer in Surgery' at Westminster Medical School, then 'Professor of Surgery' at the age of 36 at the newly opened surgical unit and remembers that these were the days when consultants were in charge of their own ward, with a sister and junior staff all reporting to them with any clinical question dealt with immediately by the consultant as "a matter of pride".

* remained at Westminster until 1989 when he 'retired as a practising surgeon at the age of 63 and moved to Cambridge University to serve as a 'Clinical Anatomist' four years, passing on his enthusiasm, expertise and care for the patient to youngsters entering a medical world very different from the one he had entered forty years before.

* is renowned among medics for his textbook : 'Clinical Anatomy : Applied Anatomy for Students and Junior Doctors' which went into its 13th edition in 2013 and his prodigious output of  hundreds of papers and dozens of books which in production were supported by the myth that he used to dictate papers while sitting in his bath and his own admission that he did not need much sleep.

* recalled when he was 82, that, as a young medic, worked for a terrible surgeon who, when something went wrong would say to the patient : "I don't want you to blame yourself" and they would say "sorry my wound has gone septic" but felt that things had now gone too far the other way, with doctors too worried about litigation to do their job properly and "I remember putting a woman on the operating table with no pulse and no blood pressure and opening her up with no anaesthetic and saving her life, but if that was to happen today the surgeon might say: 'What about the lawyer?'."

* said, on the publication of the 'Freedom to Speak Up' Report : "How could such a thing happen?” “I did not read the Report because it makes me too upset, but I believe that lines of command in the NHS are no longer clearly established. There is no longer that personal feeling of responsibility for the patient that we all had throughout my career” and blamed a collapse of clear lines of responsibility among medical and nursing staff for such an erosion of sense of community that aberrations like the Mid Staffordshire Hospitals Scandal occurred – and may do again.

* thought that the “slavish adoption” of the European Working Time directive also dealt a deadly blow to essential NHS systems because, as doctors and nurses work shorter hours, their cases are taken over by new shifts of clinicians, leading to a dilution of responsibility for a patient’s care and said : “I’m an old man now, but I am certainly not unique. If the phone went at 2am at night, you just got dressed and went off to the hospital. The wellbeing of the patient was all that mattered, and it was so obvious that we didn’t even talk about it.”

* also regrets, with the drive for and increase in specialisation, the end of the 'surgical team' where he and his theatre sister operated together for decades, so she knew what he needed before he asked for it, while now teams are often thrown together on the day, having never met before which : "leads to a lack of continuity, in which a patient’s needs can fail to be noticed.”

* is horrified that problems in the NHS have turned into a 'political punchbag' by the political parties in the run up to the General Election in May and thinks the crux of the problem was too much change and too fast : “Things are moving at a remarkable speed and the NHS has not been able to change fast enough to adapt."

* has an additional fear about the NHS in that it faces "an insatiable and increasing demand” with an urgent need to focus on increasing GP numbers to ensure that they are not on call every night and weekend, leading to burn-out and is appalled at the groaning Accident & Emergency departments and suggests that serious investment in them will also go some way to counteracting the GP problem, while more are being recruited.

Is this is the same old and reflective who, as a very young and idealistic medical student at the Radcliffe Infrirmary seventy years ago, had said  ? :

“It was like the gates of heaven opening – white coats, stethoscopes and calls of ‘Oh Doctor’ – I really loved it.”

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Britain is no longer a country for and says "Farewell" to an old historical ecologist called Oliver Rackham

Oliver, who began his academic career studying botany at Cambridge University, moved to geography, found his forte in 'historical ecology', opened our eyes to what we took for granted, transformed our understanding of the development of our forests and gave us the scholarly and dramatic concept of the 'Wildwood', has died at the age of seventy-five.  

What you possibly didn't know about Oliver, that he :

* was born in 1939, the only child to Norah, who died when he was a teenager, and Geoffrey, a bank clerk, just after the outbreak of the Second World War in the hamlet of Wainford in Suffolk and spent his early childhood a mile away in the market town of Bungay (left), where he first became absorbed by landscape of the surrounding countryside.

* received his secondary education in Norfolk, until the age if 16 at the fee-paying, Edward VI Grammar School, a boys' public school of ancient foundation in the close of Norwich Cathedral with the motto 'Praemia Vitrutis Honores', 'Honours are the Rewards of Virtue' and then the state-run Norwich City College, where he studied for his 'A' level exams, before gaining an entrance scholarship as a Parker Exhibitioner attending Corpus Christi College, Cambridge as an undergraduate in 1958, where he specialised in Botany and had his talents recognised as a 'Foundation Scholar'.

* graduated in 1961 with a first-class degree in the 'Natural Sciences Tripos', continued his studies at Corpus Christi, based his 1964 doctoral dissertation on the 'physiology of plant growth and transpiration', became a demonstrator in physiology and ecology in the Department of Botany and in the same year, at the age of twenty-five, was approached and lent his support to the campaign to make the £5,000 purchase of  'Hayley Wood' in Cambridgeshire, in recognition of its importance as a 'Site of Special Scientific Interest as Ancient Woodland' and important habitat for many species.

* researched the history of Hayley Wood, put his Latin to good use, drawing on the 1251 manor book for the Bishopric of Ely and found that the Wood dated back at least seven-hundred years, evidence of management : a hay field, a ridge and furrow system and farm buildings and began to develop his thesis that, contrary to public perception, England had not lost substantial areas of ancient woodland in recent centuries through the building of towns and roads, but rather, the earlier expansion of farmland and forestry.


*  in 1968, transferred to the 'Plant Breeding Institute' in Trumpington, Cambridge as a researcher, where he worked until the age of thirty-three in 1972, then rejoined the Department of Botany as an independent grant-funded researcher and while there in 1975, published 'Hayley Wood : its history and ecology'  followed by 'Trees and Woodland in the British Landscape' in the 'Archaeology in the Field Series' the following year, which, for the first time, brought 'Ancient Woodland' to the attention of conservationists and later foresters.

* published his monumental 'Ancient Woodland of England: the Woods of South-East Essex' with its survey of woodland types and histories, populated with his own hand-drawn maps in 1980 and in 1989, 'The Last Forest: the story of Hatfield Forest', before confirming his new direction in 1990, when he became a research worker in the Department of Geography at Cambridge where he concentrated on historical ecology, in particular, the history of woodland and the landscape in England and Wales and where he continued to work to the age of sixty-one in 2000.

* in collaboration with American academic, Jennifer Moody, published 'The making of the Cretan landscape' in 1996, with a chapter devoted to 'History, pseudo-history and the use of evidence', twenty-eight years after being invited to the island in 1968 by archaeologist, Peter Warren, as the 'expeditionary botanist' for his Myrtos excavation and had the book described by one critic as being : 'informed throughout by a professional scientific understanding of environmental history and by a great acuity of methodology' together with a notable 'level of common sense.'

* in 2002, attended the 'Cambridge Conservation Volunteers 40th Anniversary' Bash in Hayley Wood in a great storm, which he later recalled as : "a great stir to rival, indeed surpass, 1987 and 1990 and we had to cut our way through fallen trees to get here at all and I remember we all crowded together and put our heads together and I bellowed my speech to the sound of great oak branches crashing down. It confirmed my opinion that the ability to shed branches is genetically determined and in consequence the distribution of fallen branches, for the oaks in Hayley Wood, was not uniform and an oak that can shed one branch was more likely to shed more than one."   http://ow.ly/J8Q9z ( half way through clip)

* again in 2002, as 'Senior Fellow' and 'Keeper of the College Records', published 'Treasures of Silver at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge', an account of their provenance and acquisition with some dating from before the foundation of the College in 1352 and inherited from the Gilds which founded the College, with pride of place given to the ancient Drinking Horn, believed to be more than 700 years old.

* was affectionately remembered by one of the British delegates in 2005, in the Greek town of Ioannina at the plenary lecture on 'Mountains and Ecological History' at the  'European Conference on Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Development in Mountain Areas of Europe''once the conference was underway I still recall the puzzlement of our Greek organising committee who had to root around in the basement for a traditional slide projector for his talk as he simply did not 'do technology' and certainly not PowerPoint! Furthermore, his lecture overran quite significantly, but there was no way anyone was going to interrupt the great man and of course we let him continue with his flow of narrative eloquence until he had exhausted all his slides and had said all he wanted to say.'

* in his seminal work, 'Woodlands', in the 'New Naturalist Series' in 2006, dismissed the notion that medieval Britain was one big forest wilderness of vast, looming oaks and the Industrial Revolution signalled a nationwide orgy of tree-felling and argued that the high point of forestation was sometime in the Bronze Age, industrialisation and urbanisation acted as a catalyst for preservation and since the creation of the Forestry Commission in 1919, the proportion of Britain covered in trees had risen from 4% to 12%.

* no stranger to publicly voicing opposition, having, some years before, fought the Forestry Commission over the planting of conifers, lent his weight to the opposition in 2010, to Government plans to sell off publicly owned forests, which might have seen them replaced by holiday resorts, golf courses and adventure playgrounds, with  : "A public body is better able to cope with these matters than random private owners.... it's important that people who have worked for many years in a place and got to know it, shouldn't be summarily thrown out by some stroke of a pen by some distant bureaucrat" and had the satisfaction of seeing the order rescinded in 2013.

 * in 2011 at the age of seventy-two at the 'Galway Garden Festival', armed with a slide projector, delivered : 'Irish Trees and Woods : History and Ecology' http://ow.ly/J7yWg and began with : "Ireland in the interval between the end of the last Ice Age, let's say 12,000 years ago and the coming of the Neolithic farmers, let's say about 6,000 years ago, is likely to have been trees and trees and trees and  trees, from sea to sea and even to the tops of the mountains" and the following year, without the aid of a single written note, delivered his : 'Woods Past', to mark 'Woodlands Communication Day' : http://ow.ly/J9AiS

* in 2012, in his 'The History of the Countryside' stated :'There are four kinds of loss...there is the loss of beauty, especially that exquisite beauty of the small and complex and unexpected, of frog-orchids or sundews or dragonflies. There is the loss of freedom, of high-ways and open spaces...There is the loss of historic vegetation, most of which once gone is lost forever...I am specially concerned with the loss of meaning. The landscape is a record of our roots and the growth of our civilization. Each individual historic wood, heath, etc. is uniquely different from every other, and each has something to tell us'.

* in 2014, unexpectedly holed-up in a hospital in Texas, in the context of the advent of ash dieback disease in Britain, produced in a fortnight, the complete draught of what became 'The Ash Tree', in which he stated : 'Get real. Stop letting the anthropology of commerce overrule the practical world. Stop treating plants (and bees) as mere articles of trade, like cars or tins of paint, to be made and bought in industrial quantities from anywhere. Importing a million cars does not imperil the cars that are already here, but trees are different ‘ and decried ' the casual way in which plants and soil are shipped and flown around the globe in commercial quantities, inevitably bringing with them diseases to which the plants at their destination have no resistance. This has been subtracting tree after tree from the world’s ecosystems; if it goes on for another hundred years how much will be left?'

* within 'The Ash Tree', lamented the loss and called for a revival in ‘the Science of Pathology’ which ‘has been scandalously neglected in Britain’, saying that when the Botany School at Cambridge became 'Plant Sciences', his generation became the last to be taught properly about tree disease : ‘I am one of the last survivors of a Critically Endagered Species. I belong in a Zoo.’

* in 2010 became a 'Life Fellow' at Corpus Christi and remained a frequent and notable presence around College and was remembered by student of law, Jamie Ranson as "a man of great dedication, exuberant spirit and sincere generosity. He made Corpus proud. From the red socks and sandals to the square atop his head and his particular way of saying "Do please be seated" at formals, he will be sorely missed" and had his passing honoured with the College flag lowered to half-mast, last Friday.

 
* will be remembered for the power of his poetic evocation of the world we have lost :

'The England of hamlets, medieval farms in hollows of the hills, lonely moats and great barns in the clay-lands, pollards and ancient trees, cavernous holloways and many footpaths, fords. irregularly-shaped groves with thick hedges colourful with maple, dogwood and spindle - an intricate land of mystery and surprise.'
 
 

 


'The seventy eventful years between 1870 and 1945 and even World War II itself, were less destructive than any five years since. Much of England in 1945 would have been instantly recognisable by Sir Thomas More, and some areas would have been recognised by the Emperor Claudius.'
 
'To the medieval, a Forest was a place of deer, not a place of trees.'

'To convert millions of acres of wildwood into farmland was unquestionably the greatest achievement of any of our ancestors.'

'In popular myth, Forest courts were blood-thirsty courts, cutting off the limbs etc. of even minor offenders against Forest law, but not a single case has been brought forward as evidence of this having been done.'

'Old trees, though uncommon, are a speciality of England. Europe is a continent of young or youngish trees, like a human population with compulsory euthanasia at age thirty; one can go from Boulogne to Athens without seeing a tree more than 200 years old.'

'The simplest conservation measure of all is three strands of barbed wire.'