If you’re a photographer, one of the trends driven by COVID-19 isolation is the search for visually interesting places near home that are vacant of people. This has taken me to some local cemeteries and parklands I wouldn’t otherwise have visited. The latest of these is a 25-acre tract of natural woodland known as Sadler’s Woods in Haddon Township, NJ. It’s named for escaped slave Joshua Sadler who founded a small community there in the early 1800s. At its center is the trickling headwaters of Newton Creek that broadens out through county parklands before it joins the distant Delaware River. A number of successful political battles have been fought since the 1970s to protect this patch of old-growth forest from developers.
I have driven past it hundreds of times and this time, I and my camera walked in. In summer this place is a lush wall of green. In winter, denuded of their leaves, the same trees are stark silhouettes — except for those at the far western end of the place where heavy growths of Kudzu have completely taken over. It envelopes everything on the ground and rises several stories to the tops of the highest trees.
Enchanting Victorian look
I’m tempted to say it actually looks magical when you’re in the middle of it — the exotically enchanting look Victorian designers loved when they originally brought Kudzu into the country from Asia to fill out some of the landscaped areas of the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia.
And, photographed in infrared it does have a certain etherial beauty to it and almost looks like snow. Walking through the west end of Sadler’s makes me remember those dark and foreboding European forests that played such a role in the Grimm’s Fairy Tales of my youth.