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These mesmerising pictures show just how magical and Middle-earth-like England’s woodlands can be.

They are the work of landscape photographer Richard Searle, a music composer who also runs a fledgling photography business, and were mostly taken in his home county, Surrey.

Searle turns his camera on gnarled tree trunks and beds of moss and ferns, often capturing beautiful mist-laden scenes in the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and in the oakwoods of Dartmoor, Devon. 

He tells MailOnline Travel: ‘It takes persistence for woodlands to give up their secrets, but a real beauty in the detail is revealed once they do.’ 

How does he capture such spellbinding pictures of Britain’s woods? Searle explains: ‘I spend countless hours wandering around local woodlands, and when I find something that catches my eye, I take a shot with my phone and store the location data.

‘Sometimes I’m lucky enough to just stumble upon a scene at the right time, in good conditions, but that’s a rarity. Usually, it takes repeated visits to the same location before I finally get the conditions I’m hoping for.’ Scroll down to see 15 images from Searle’s wonderful portfolio of work…

This mystical image, named 'Portal', was captured in Wistman's Wood on Dartmoor. Searle says of the shot: 'Wistman's Wood is always a magical place but a bit of mist and gloom certainly adds to the ambience'

This mystical image, named ‘Portal’, was captured in Wistman’s Wood on Dartmoor. Searle says of the shot: ‘Wistman’s Wood is always a magical place but a bit of mist and gloom certainly adds to the ambience’

This transfixing picture of a deer in Surrey woodland is named 'Contact'. Searle says: 'This young chap stood perfectly still for at least 30 seconds, allowing me to get into a good position for this shot. I couldn’t believe my luck'

Set in the Surrey Hills AONB, this ethereal picture was captured on a 'bitterly cold morning in March'. Searle says: ‘The best times for woodland photography are at the very beginning or end of the day, when the light is soft and diffused. Blue hour can also be fantastic as the atmosphere in a woodland [that is] lit only by the faintest early morning light can be a truly wonderful thing'

LEFT: This transfixing picture of a deer in Surrey woodland is named ‘Contact’. Searle says: ‘This young chap stood perfectly still for at least 30 seconds, allowing me to get into a good position for this shot. I couldn’t believe my luck.’ RIGHT: Set in the Surrey Hills AONB, this ethereal picture was captured on a ‘bitterly cold morning in March’. Searle says: ‘The best times for woodland photography are at the very beginning or end of the day, when the light is soft and diffused. Blue hour can also be fantastic as the atmosphere in a woodland [that is] lit only by the faintest early morning light can be a truly wonderful thing’

Behold, 'Twister', which was captured by Searle in Surrey. He describes the image as a 'lovely scene of symmetrically leaning twisted oaks'. The photographer notes: ‘The greatest challenge with woodland photography is making sense of what is usually a very chaotic environment. Fog helps as it creates separation between subjects and softens distant details but even so, tiny movements of the camera can make or break an image'

Behold, ‘Twister’, which was captured by Searle in Surrey. He describes the image as a ‘lovely scene of symmetrically leaning twisted oaks’. The photographer notes: ‘The greatest challenge with woodland photography is making sense of what is usually a very chaotic environment. Fog helps as it creates separation between subjects and softens distant details but even so, tiny movements of the camera can make or break an image’

'Arc' is the title of this striking photograph of a tree in the Surrey Hills. The photographer reveals he enjoyed 'perfect conditions' when he took the shot one winter morning

‘Arc’ is the title of this striking photograph of a tree in the Surrey Hills. The photographer reveals he enjoyed ‘perfect conditions’ when he took the shot one winter morning 

Of this captivating scene captured in Surrey, Searle recalls: 'The light breaking through the canopy in the distance, framed by the two old oaks, was enough to catch my eye.' Speaking generally about his portfolio of landscape photography, he adds: ‘These photographs are about relationships between shapes, colour, texture and contrast and everything that is in the frame needs to be considered’

Of this captivating scene captured in Surrey, Searle recalls: ‘The light breaking through the canopy in the distance, framed by the two old oaks, was enough to catch my eye.’ Speaking generally about his portfolio of landscape photography, he adds: ‘These photographs are about relationships between shapes, colour, texture and contrast and everything that is in the frame needs to be considered’

Dartmoor is the setting for this beautiful image, which Searle titled 'Relict'. He says that the picture shows 'summer sunlight breaching the dense canopy, the soft glow of the moss, clinging to the oak trunks and a delicate Rowan tree, clinging on for survival, nestled amongst its mighty companions'. The photographer adds: 'It’s a shame that the Rowan wasn’t resplendent with berries - just a few in the top right corner - but [it's] hardly surprising, considering how little light penetrates through'

Dartmoor is the setting for this beautiful image, which Searle titled ‘Relict’. He says that the picture shows ‘summer sunlight breaching the dense canopy, the soft glow of the moss, clinging to the oak trunks and a delicate Rowan tree, clinging on for survival, nestled amongst its mighty companions’. The photographer adds: ‘It’s a shame that the Rowan wasn’t resplendent with berries – just a few in the top right corner – but [it’s] hardly surprising, considering how little light penetrates through’

Searle notes that the two trees in this marvellous picture, taken in Surrey, 'are bathed in soft, early morning light, with the faintest touch of mist still hanging in the trees beyond'

Searle notes that the two trees in this marvellous picture, taken in Surrey, ‘are bathed in soft, early morning light, with the faintest touch of mist still hanging in the trees beyond’

Cast your eye above and you'll see Searle's current favourite photograph, titled 'Congregation'. He says: 'My favourite image often changes. I think it’s only natural to cast a critical eye over your previous work and I often look back on things and see what could have been done better. It’s often a more recent image that is my current favourite, as is the case now.' Describing the story behind the photograph, which was taken in Surrey, Searle says: 'It was captured a few weeks ago in a local park and although it is a composition I scouted some time ago, I had to wait for just the right weather conditions for it to work'

Cast your eye above and you’ll see Searle’s current favourite photograph, titled ‘Congregation’. He says: ‘My favourite image often changes. I think it’s only natural to cast a critical eye over your previous work and I often look back on things and see what could have been done better. It’s often a more recent image that is my current favourite, as is the case now.’ Describing the story behind the photograph, which was taken in Surrey, Searle says: ‘It was captured a few weeks ago in a local park and although it is a composition I scouted some time ago, I had to wait for just the right weather conditions for it to work’

Searle took advantage of the 'beautiful, foggy conditions' in the Surrey Hills AONB when he captured this shot, titled 'Sprawl'. He muses: 'I was drawn to the way the light was catching the moss, creating the luminous glow'

Searle took advantage of the ‘beautiful, foggy conditions’ in the Surrey Hills AONB when he captured this shot, titled ‘Sprawl’. He muses: ‘I was drawn to the way the light was catching the moss, creating the luminous glow’

This atmospheric shot, snared in Surrey, is titled 'Evergreen'. Searle muses: ‘There’s something captivating about the ever-modulating nature of woodland. As seasons change or simply [go] through different weather conditions, different relationships between the trees reveal themselves. You can visit the same place over and over and it’s never quite the same’

This atmospheric shot, snared in Surrey, is titled ‘Evergreen’. Searle muses: ‘There’s something captivating about the ever-modulating nature of woodland. As seasons change or simply [go] through different weather conditions, different relationships between the trees reveal themselves. You can visit the same place over and over and it’s never quite the same’

Searle says that he captured this Surrey woodland scene 'in all its foggy splendour'. He explains: 'I love to shoot locally, where possible. Getting out into the mountains is always a great experience, but shooting locally allows me to really get to know an area well, which leads to more photographic opportunities'

Searle says that he captured this Surrey woodland scene ‘in all its foggy splendour’. He explains: ‘I love to shoot locally, where possible. Getting out into the mountains is always a great experience, but shooting locally allows me to really get to know an area well, which leads to more photographic opportunities’ 

Another enchanting forest scene in Surrey, titled 'Golden Bower'. Searle says: 'I spotted this [scene] whilst walking back to the car after a shoot and although I’d noticed these trees and their intricate shapes many times before, it was the light that caught my eye this time'

Another enchanting forest scene in Surrey, titled ‘Golden Bower’. Searle says: ‘I spotted this [scene] whilst walking back to the car after a shoot and although I’d noticed these trees and their intricate shapes many times before, it was the light that caught my eye this time’

Here, you'll see a stunning photograph of what Searle describes as 'an impressive looking old beech tree' in the Surrey Hills area. The photographer reveals that the tree was 'buried deep within a local plantation, kept company by a few old friends'. He says that the scene is 'a relic of a time gone by before the area was re-forested for quick-growing timber production'

Here, you’ll see a stunning photograph of what Searle describes as ‘an impressive looking old beech tree’ in the Surrey Hills area. The photographer reveals that the tree was ‘buried deep within a local plantation, kept company by a few old friends’. He says that the scene is ‘a relic of a time gone by before the area was re-forested for quick-growing timber production’ 

Above is 'S-Curve', which was commended in the 'Your View' category of this year’s Landscape Photographer of the Year (LPOTY) awards. The image, taken in Surrey, is part of the LPOTY exhibition, which is on show at London Bridge station until January 9, 2022. For more information about Searle's work, visit his website or his Instagram page

Above is ‘S-Curve’, which was commended in the ‘Your View’ category of this year’s Landscape Photographer of the Year (LPOTY) awards. The image, taken in Surrey, is part of the LPOTY exhibition, which is on show at London Bridge station until January 9, 2022. For more information about Searle’s work, visit his website or his Instagram page




Top of my holiday wishlist is another trip to Disney World, for I have discovered my happy place – and inner Minnie. Having never visited the Orlando resort as a child, I’ve always felt I’d missed out, so when I was invited to give a lecture on the Royal Family in Miami, it seemed the perfect opportunity to make a detour with my husband Chris and children Matilda, nine, and George, four.

As we pulled up at Disney Yacht and Beach Club Resort, we let out a collective gasp. The sheer size of the place is mind-boggling. ‘I can’t believe we are in Disney World!’ Matilda squealed. Neither could I.

At check-in we were given Mickey Mouse wristbands which give access to all the parks and contain passes that let us skip ride queues.

Fantasy life: You’ll find Mickey and Minnie and all their friends at Disney World’s four parks

Fantasy life: You’ll find Mickey and Minnie and all their friends at Disney World’s four parks

Too excited to unpack, we grabbed a day-bag stuffed with essentials: sunscreen, plenty of water, fold-away umbrella (for standing in long queues in the heat) and the sugar-laden Mickey Mouse cupcakes left in our room.

As we headed to Epcot, complete with an Eiffel Tower and a vast lake, I marvelled at the scale of the park. Disney World isn’t just America’s top tourist destination, it’s a county in its own right, complete with a municipal district.

The sophisticated transport infrastructure makes getting around easy. The new cable-cars afford bird’s-eye views, boat rides make for a scenic experience while the monorail and Walt Disney World Bus Service whisk you quickly between the parks.

Proudly sporting our newly purchased Mickey and Minnie ears (a must!), we strolled around the World Showcase, stopping at England with a quaint pub, lipstick-red post boxes and beautifully manicured gardens where we chanced upon Mary Poppins, much to Matilda and George’s delight.

Fast track: Katie and her husband get to try out the Slinky Dog rollercoaster, pictured above

Fast track: Katie and her husband get to try out the Slinky Dog rollercoaster, pictured above 

Super nanny: Katie’s children meet Mary Poppins in the 'England' corner of the resort's World Showcase

Super nanny: Katie’s children meet Mary Poppins in the ‘England’ corner of the resort’s World Showcase 

It was a hop and a skip across to Norway, where we sailed through the fantastical world of Frozen on a Viking ship. With music from the film and amazing 3D technology that makes the models marvellously realistic, I loved the ride so much that we did it three times and even got to meet Elsa and Anna.

With George being so young, we were limited at Epcot, which has some of the more exhilarating rides. However, Spaceship Earth, located in a giant golfball-like dome that lights up at night, was suitable for all ages, while a journey from the Stone Age through to the Digital Age on slightly rickety trains was educational and fun.

The kids also loved The Seas With Nemo And Friends – a ride on a ‘clamobile’ which spins and turns as the underwater world of Finding Nemo whooshes past.

My highlight was Soarin’ Around The World – a virtual-reality hang-gliding ride. Matilda, who just met the height restriction, bagged us first-row seats, which meant we had a thrilling view as we flew over an African savanna alongside a herd of elephants.

Then we towered over the Taj Mahal before heading to the North Pole, where an icy blast of air caught us by surprise and the delight of seeing a very realistic polar bear and her cub jump into the sea actually brought a tear to my eye.

Epcot stages the most incredible nightly fireworks display over the lake that is set to music and a state-of-the-art light show.

The kids were exhausted and fell asleep on the train back to the hotel, but I stayed up plotting the next day’s itinerary.

We wanted to squeeze all four parks into just three days, which is ambitious but just about possible. There is simply so much to see and do that you probably really need at least five days here, so planning is essential. And it’s worth staying at a Disney hotel, as guests can enjoy crowd-free ‘magic hours’ in the morning before the parks open to the public.

According to Katie, there's no need to carry cash at Disney World. She says: 'Just charge everything to your Disney account, which is linked to your Mickey Mouse wristband'

According to Katie, there’s no need to carry cash at Disney World. She says: ‘Just charge everything to your Disney account, which is linked to your Mickey Mouse wristband’

The Disney Genie Service is also a brilliant way of navigating and checking waiting times for rides. It can get you passes to bypass queues, reserve dining (essential if you want waiter service) and pre-order food to cut waiting times.

There’s no need to carry cash: just charge everything to your Disney account, which is linked to your Mickey Mouse wristband – the one piece of kit you don’t want to lose.

If you can stretch to paying for a VIP tour guide, rates range from £315 to £630 per hour, depending on the season, with a minimum booking of seven hours and a maximum of ten guests per tour.

'We dedicated the whole of our last day to exploring the Magic Kingdom and its four lands: Frontierland, Fantasyland, Tomorrowland and Adventureland,' says Katie. Pictured is the resort's Cinderella castle, which is the gateway to Fantasyland

‘We dedicated the whole of our last day to exploring the Magic Kingdom and its four lands: Frontierland, Fantasyland, Tomorrowland and Adventureland,’ says Katie. Pictured is the resort’s Cinderella castle, which is the gateway to Fantasyland 

You enjoy the luxury of being chauffeured around the parks in SUVs, and from snacks on arrival to wet wipes for sticky hands, the service is five-star.

Our charming guide Mark knew every nook and cranny, and his shortcuts as we tackled Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom on day two meant we got around at lightning speed. He also had a pass that meant we never had to queue more than ten minutes for even the most popular rides.

The children were too small for some of them, but Mark was happy to keep them entertained so my husband and I could experience the Tower Of Terror (a sheer drop in the dark – never again) and the Slinky Dog rollercoaster.

Minnie adventure: A fireworks show at Walt Disney World Resort. 'The whole experience was a sensory overload,' says Katie

Minnie adventure: A fireworks show at Walt Disney World Resort. ‘The whole experience was a sensory overload,’ says Katie 

TRAVEL FACTS 

Katie Nicholl was a guest of Disney. Virgin Atlantic Holidays offers seven nights at Walt Disney World from £5,284 for a family of four, excluding flights, departing on August 27. Includes Disney Magic Tickets with Disney Genie+ service (virginholidays.co.uk).

The shows at Hollywood Studios are brilliantly produced – we enjoyed Beauty And The Beast and the Little Mermaid – and they provide some much needed time out from the sun and crowds.

We then headed to Animal Kingdom, home to ‘Africa’ and ‘Asia’ and the incredible World Of Avatar, which includes a spectacular ride down the film’s Na’vi river. The children loved riding in a jeep around the park, where we got to see hippos, lions, crocodiles and giraffes.

We dedicated the whole of our last day to exploring the Magic Kingdom and its four lands: Frontierland, Fantasyland, Tomorrowland and Adventureland.

Matilda was desperate to visit the castle so we made a reservation for lunch with Cinderella and the other Disney princesses.

Watching the children’s faces as they met the stars of movies they love was wonderful, and when I discovered Disney champagne I was in second heaven!

The whole experience was a sensory overload with parades, music, fireworks like I’ve never seen and magical rides.

After a pretty tough year and a half, what I loved most about Disney was the escapism. I forgot about the real world and simply revelled in being a kid all over again.