The Essay - Forests

Monday 18 June to Friday 22 June



As part of Into The Forest on BBC Radio 3, Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough explores what it is about a forest which captures our imagination. To find out, Eleanor takes a walk through the forest each day this week, with writers and artists who find themselves moved by the sounds, textures and smells of this landscape.

Monday - Forests Of The Imagination
Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough is joined by Fiona Stafford, the author of The Long, Long Life Of Trees and an expert on romantic poets. Fiona is fascinated by the moment in the late 18th century when Britain's great forests were swept away by the demands of the Royal Navy. As the dark forests with their wild beasts disappeared, novelists and visual artists were free to conjure up their own spaces for the romantic imagination.

Tuesday - Forest Folk
Today folk singer Nancy Kerr joins Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough for a walk in the woods. Forests play a vital role in folk music, and Nancy explains to Rosamund just how powerfully symbolic trees and forests can be, as she herself often composes her own songs in the woods, and interprets classic tales of sylvan sensuality.

Wednesday - Scents Of The Forest
Legendary parfumier Roja Dove joins Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough for a walk in the woods. This acclaimed nose of the perfume industry can identify 800 different scents blindfolded. When he joins Eleanor in the woods, he discusses how the base notes of the forest scent inspire him. The foundation of damp moss and rotting wood is warm and comforting, but a change in the breeze can bring a brief blast of frightened animal, exciting the senses. These are just the kind of effects Roja looks for when he formulates a new perfume.

Thursday - Outlaws Of The Forest
Forests are the perfect place for outlaw artists to enact their vision. Just 14 stops from Soho on the Central Line, Epping Forest provides a particularly convenient place to lose yourself and hide from worldly distractions. Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough is joined on a walk through the artistic hotspots of Epping Forest by Will Ashon, author of Strange Labyrinth, a cultural guidebook to the lungs of North-East London.

Friday - Forest Webs
Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough concludes her series of walks through the forest.


In midsummer week, BBC Radio 3 enters one of the most potent sources of the human imagination - The Forest (16-24 June).

The week-long season, Into The Forest, will explore how composers, folk singers, novelists, artists, thriller-writers, poets, film-makers and many others have all been drawn back again and again to the enclosed world of dense trees.

Each morning Radio 3 Breakfast will broadcast live from a different forest across the UK. The sound of the forest will then continue throughout the day on the station, exploring how music has continually been inspired by the natural world, from the 19th century Romantic composers to Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods. Programmes will explore the myth, fairy tale, enchantment, escape and magical danger of the forest in summer.

Into The Forest on BBC Radio 3 brings the forest to listeners at home, with slow radio moments featuring the sounds of the forest, allowing time out from today’s often frenetic world.

Into The Forest is the first of three dedicated weeks of programming across the year exploring the ongoing influence of this natural landscape on music and the arts.

  • Producer: Alasdair Cross