Friday 16 November 2007

Between Two Worlds: Glenmore Forest

Dusk was falling along with the rain as I descended into Glenmore Forest after a wintry day on Cairn Gorm. The narrow muddy path was overgrown, steep and greasy with wet fallen leaves. Slithering down this slick trail I used trees and shrubs as handholds as I struggled to keep my balance. Far below a line of orange lights traced a bright line through the now dark forest. Then strange music echoed through the trees, a repeating snatch of tune played on what sounded like bells and flutes. Emerging on the wide track on the floor of the glen I discovered that this was part of Between Two Worlds, a Forestry Commission Scotland event for the Highland Year of Culture.

A few days later I returned to experience the event in full. Between Two Worlds was created by sculptor and environmental artist Diane Maclean and light and sound artist Malcolm Innes with music by Bob Pegg to “celebrate the beauty and mystery of Glenmore Forest”. The event involves a two mile walk along a track and some purpose-laid boardwalks past various lighting installations while eerie acoustic music ripples through the trees. A river of silver light led out to a pool of light in an open boggy area, coloured lights turned trees red, purple and green, lights playing on a concrete bridge gave the illusion of walking on the water flowing beneath, lights shone through pine needle fronds to create curious patterns on the track. The centrepiece of the event took place at lovely An Lochan Uaine – the Green Lochan. Spotlights dimmed and coloured fountains and water spouts to erupted like liquid fireworks, creating fast moving patterns of light, while ethereal and unearthly music range around. Here the two worlds were meant to be our world and the world of faerie, there being a legend that fairies living in the hill above came here to wash their clothes, which turned the water green.

Another two worlds touched on were those of humanity and wild nature. Two square lights set against darkness gave the illusion of a cottage, lit from within. A woman singing rang out from the forest dwelling. And from deep in the trees came the sound of wolves howling. Away from the cottage into the depths of the forest pairs of bright orange-yellow lights flicked on and off, the eyes of the wolves. Behind them a long shaft of pale light mimicked the moon shining through the trees. The last sight brought back memories of walking and skiing through a moonlit forest without any lights or cottages. I’d prefer that to this event but it was entertaining and atmospheric and imaginative and worth seeing. I hope that when it is over all traces of it vanish from the forest though – 18 days is long enough to have long cables, generators and the rest of the paraphernalia intruding into the natural scene. I also hope that those who have enjoyed the event will venture out into a forest at night and experience the real mystery and wonder found there.

The photo shows lights playing on pines. Photo info: Canon EOS 350D, Canon 18-55mm IS lens at 28mm, f4@1/15, ISO 1600, raw file converted to JPEG and processed in DxO Optics Pro. The shot was taken handheld. Without the Image Stabilizer lens I doubt I could have taken a sharp image. Even with IS I still underexposed by three stops.


  1. What an impressively erie scene, just wondering where the hobbits are? All the best, Tony

  2. I guess the fairies were the original hobbits. On the Between Two Worlds CD Bob Pegg tells some of the stories about the fairies of Glenmore - who are not the delicate gossamer type.