An atmospheric, mythical history of South-East London’s long-lost ancient woodland, The Great North Wood, stunningly brought to life by award-winning comic artist Tim Bird.
Forest Hill. Honor Oak. The names of South-East London’s leafy suburbs evoke the ancient woodland from which they arose. There was a time, many centuries ago, when all of the southeast was covered in dense forest – ‘England slumbered beneath a canopy of leaves’ – that is, until Man began to pull it apart, bit by bit. One particular forest stretched from what is now Croydon to Southwark, from Lambeth to Lewisham.
As Man claimed ownership of this land, they wrote a name on a map: The Great North Wood.
Over time, The Great North Wood was cleared – Empire called for wood to make ships; a growing population required land for farming; industrialisation allowed railway lines and roads to cut through the forest and bring people into newly-formed suburbs; war and rebuilding brought a new kind of destruction in the form of bombs, then concrete.
Now, only small patches of woodland remain amidst South-East London’s suburban sprawl. The forest whispers its mythical history through these patches, and through names on maps: ‘Norwood’.
In The Great North Wood, Tim Bird amplifies the forest’s whispers, bringing to life its history and many legends. We learn of the great oak tree (only a rusty plaque remains) that gave name to Vicars Oak Road and of Margaret Finch, the gypsy fortune-teller immortalised by the name Gipsy Hill. We hear the legend of Queen Elizabeth I knighting the great tree on a hill – now Honor Oak, but no tree remains. Through these legends, and by learning about the disappearing Great North Wood, we come to understand what has been lost and appreciate the pockets that remain. A curious fox, London’s constant reminder of who was here first, leads us across Bird’s journey through space and time.
The story of The Great North Wood is stunningly brought to life through Bird’s beautiful storytelling and tender illustrations. The creator of Grey Area: From the City to the Sea – which won Best Comic at the 2015 British Comic Awards – and Grey Area: Our Town, Tim Bird is a master of using the comics medium to give us beautiful, quiet, understated stories that demand the reader’s careful consideration.
Praise for Tim Bird’s Grey Area: From the City to the Sea
WINNER: Best Comic, the British Comic Awards
‘Grey Area is a piece of beautifully understated storytelling from Tim Bird, and one that fully deserves your considered attention and support.’
— Andy Oliver, Broken Frontier
‘This is a beautiful work, Bird creating images that sit there and demand that the reader ask questions, images that look gorgeous yet also demand that the reader engage.’
— Richard Bruton, Forbidden Planet International
‘It’s amazing… like a slice of London. You can feel the streets, it’s poetically told… really really good. The quality of the book is really great, the oversized production… big art size.’
— Big Planet Comics Podcast
‘A quiet, beautiful and poetic little graphic novel.’ — J. federleicht, Goodreads
Praise for Tim Bird’s Grey Area: Our Town
‘Grey Area … looks and feels fantastic. This is a comic of few words that resonates quietly afterwards, a quick read that leaves you going back for more, and the work of a confident, maturing cartoonist trusting his storytelling instincts.’
— Pete Redrup, The Quietus
‘The page of origami birds is the perfect example of beautiful simplicity; I spent a fair while gazing at it in wonder. Another great book from the ever- excellent Avery Hill and a perfect little bit of escapism.’
— Emily Owen, Down The Tubes
‘Our Town cements Bird’s place as one of UK comics’ most subtle and nuanced storytellers. … It’s powerful yet delicate in construction and further evidence of both Bird and Avery Hill’s place at the forefront of the new wave of British comics.’
— Andy Oliver, Broken Frontier
‘Bird’s visuals are both simple and clean, but also tightly structured, with a great eye for design and his panel layouts beautifully realised and very carefully considered… a very thoughtful and original read.’
— Alex Thomas, Pipedream Comics
‘[Bird’s] theme plays out like a poem, lyrical and rhythmic, each artistic choice carefully considered, each panel full and absolutely necessary to the rest of the piece.’
— Daniel Elkin, Comics Bulletin