A photographer from south London is currently changing people's perspectives on Mitcham Common through a series of beautiful images taken at the green space.

Foxes, fish and an incredible array of birds populate Stephen Noulton's frequently stunning images taken in south London (largely on Mitcham Common) where he walks frequently.

The Wimbledon Times caught up with Stephen about his work and how he was as surprised as anyone on rediscovering Mitcham Common during the Covid-19 pandemic.

How did your interest in photographing Mitcham Common start?

I've always been into cameras but not seriously before. Before lockdown I was commuting when it was dark and didn't have much time really. I have children and grandchildren who have all moved out now so I'm finding I have a bit more time now. At the start of lockdown, my scooter was stolen. I just thought I wasn't going to replace it, so I went and got myself a new camera instead. In all of the lockdown period I was going out to Mitcham Common a lot of the time, walking with the dog, and I ended up rediscovering it. I hadn't been there for years.

I just thought I'd go and do something different. And I just started noticing the wildlife there and just sort of fell in love with the place. Everyday when I went for that walk I took my camera with me and I started noticing birds, herons, kingfishers, all sorts of things you wouldn't always see if you were just doing a quick dog walk and your mind is on the ground. I think having the dog prevented me from doing things like more landscape photography. You can't stand around composing things when you have a dog who is impatient and wants you to throw his ball. I have found the wildlife around the pond at Mitcham Common, and the pond in particular, in parallel with that.

I think it being lockdown, I found the Common was almost deserted strangely enough. I started going earlier and earlier, and the light was beautiful. Especially around by the pond, you start to get the light filtering through the trees, it was almost like a painting, like my favourite artist Sorrolla. There were just some magical moments there, with the mist or beautiful sunrises with the pink skies. It was perfect for me.

Wimbledon Times:

How often did you go out shooting during lockdown and since?

Everyday more or less. It's actually encouraged me to do more exercise so it's been a plus all round. It was something I could do within the lockdown rules. I get lost up there, lost in my thoughts, and I've found it very therapeutic. Lockdown has been a kind of nightmare for so many people but for me it brought this experience that's actually been really wonderful.

Were you surprised to discover this side of Mitcham?

Exactly yeah. Most people ask me if I'm scared to walk up Mitcham Common. I've lived in the Streatham area since I was 13. I'm now 56. Mitcham was like a 'no go' area when I was a youth. There were a lot of problems there, a lot of pollution, a lot of dumping. You still get elements of that... but it was (considered) an unpleasant place and it had that stigma for so many years. When you drive by Mitcham Common you almost don't see it. It's kind of in the middle of several fairly main roads. It doesn't look inviting. But once you get in there, it's a beautiful place.

Wimbledon Times:

In some ways, maybe that has helped preserve it. But you have a lot of good groups that help. You've got the friends of Mitcham Common, who do a lot of good work like litter picking, fun days, raising awareness for the Common and trying to maintain it. Plus you have the Mitcham Conservators who actively manage the common and encourage wildlife. There's a lot going on there that people don't know about.

When I started posting these pictures on a Whatsapp group, people were telling me: 'This is wonderful. I've lived here for 15-20 years and I didn't realise these birds were there'. I think I've added some awareness to those groups about what kind of wildlife is there. More people are taking an interest in it and it's lovely to think that I might be doing something that could help contribute to the welfare of these birds.

How does it feel when you're in the moment capturing one of these images?

Initially I was just happy to get the bird in the frame and get something. The more I've been observing them the more I can anticipate what they're about to do. I was walking with my wife recently and I heard them honking, and said: 'Oh, they're about to take off!' and she said 'How do you know?' 'Well I can hear their noises and how they talk to each other'... And they did take off that time. There's been a few times when that's happened. It's about getting to know them a bit When I've been sitting there recently a white dove always flies over to me. I don't feed them as I don't want to interfere. Sometimes a heron comes really close to me without me approaching them. There have been some wonderful experiences and I kind of build on that. If I can show people what these animals are like, then the world's going to be a better place and people will be more respectful and kind towards these animals.

Wimbledon Times:

You mentioned the conservation work going on at the Common. How concerned are you by issues like biodiversity loss and the climate crisis?

I am very concerned by that. I don't think it will impact my personal life but we're beginning to see that. I've got children and grandchildren and I'd like to think that they've got a safe place to grow up in and not have to worry about these things. It's very important and key to me, it's one of my key concerns. I believe we should be protecting that and do what we can to maintain it. My charities now are things like the RSPB, the Wetlands Trust... I do whatever I can for them. May my images contribute to people loving these places and taking good care of them.

To view more of Stephen's work, head to his Instagram page here, or find him on Twitter here

For more on conservation efforts at Mitcham Common, find the Friends of Mitcham Common , Mitcham Wombles, or the Common website