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Friday 5 November 2021

Take the Time – Mural Project, Heath Road, Twickenham

A mural, Take the Time, has appeared on the Heath Road railway bridge foot tunnel in Twickenham. An Oak Tree looks on as passers-by look back. The tree, an icon of the Borough of Richmond, has been given vibrant and colourful personality by the artist Bryony Benge-Abbott and students from Orleans Park and Waldegrave schools. The knots found in trees from fallen limbs have been imagined as eyes looking at you, imploring you to see the tree and comprehend its life, and all life around us. The students have also given the tree a voice through poetry and messages asking all of us to address the climate and biodiversity emergencies. 

The project was developed through a collaboration between Orleans House Gallery and the Grantham Institute – Climate Change and the Environment at Imperial College London. It is part of a wider collection of murals designed by young people aimed at responding to the crucial UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) taking place in Glasgow this November. The big ideas that immerse the onlooker in the natural world, designed to make us feel awe in the spectacle and wonder of all flora and fauna that make our world, however urban beautiful and complex, are part protest and part hope, that we might all act. That local action, however, seemingly small or personal might lead to us averting the crisis as laid out so starkly in the 2021 IPCC report. 

This mural has been created through workshops with the students, Bryony, and scientists from Imperial College. The students spent time considering the interdisciplinary nature of the story they wanted to tell through the mural. Specialists in urban ecology, Dr Will Pearce and Dr Tilly Collins, alongside PhD student Hollie Folkard-Tapp, took the students around the woodlands at Orleans House Gallery elaborating on the ecosystem and how important the roots and fungi network is beneath the ground to everything we see, touch and hear above it. Bryony helped the students consider this awareness through sketching, painting and poetry. The power of art, combined with science, to reach a depth of experience for the participant as well as the audience is richly realised through this project. We hope the students had a fascinating experience and the mural is testament to their ideas and power of their voices, all aspects of the mural have been created by the students, including the poem at the heart of the story. 

Take the Time, took a week for Bryony with the amazing support from volunteers and the team from Orleans House Gallery, as well as Discover Twickenham and Percy Chapman and Sons (the Hardware store next door), to complete. We’ve already had many fascinating conversations with people who have watched the mural grow, and we hope to have many more.   

The mural, we hope, will inspire and generate thought provoking discussion around the climate and biodiversity emergencies. This project gets to the core of what Cultural Reforesting is about and how urban areas can be a thrilling place for considering the future of biodiversity, our relationship with nature, what might we imagine? What knowledge is entangled the Oak’s roots that it wants to share and how might we begin to listen?  

Can the young people of the borough of Richmond show us the way? 

Please do add your thoughts via social media. 


Artist – Bryony Benge-Abbott, with support from Charlotte Piper and Myriam Crété 

Scientists – Dr Tilly Collins, Dr Will Pearce and Hollie Folkard-Tapp 

This project has been developed by Orleans House Gallery as part of our Cultural Reforesting programme, in collaboration with the Grantham Institute – Climate Change and the Environment at Imperial College London, Octopus Energy and UK Youth for Nature.