TREES which were felled in the Great Storm of 87 in Leeds have been given a new lease of life thanks to a major new ‘organic’ series of woodland sculptures on Yorkshire’s splendid Otley Chevin.
Sculptor and art teacher Shane Green has created nine striking sculptures made from the boles of old, felled trees as part of a trail through Chevin Forest Park , on the famous Chevin above Otley, West Yorkshire.
Mr Green, head of art at Prince Henry’s Grammar School, Otley, teamed up with The Friends of Chevin Forest and the West Yorkshire Geology Trust, which, thanks to support from the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund , commissioned the fascinating project.
Each sculpture has been hand carved with a chainsaw by Mr Green, and each represents nine major epochs in Wharfedale’s history that together make up a Heritage Time Trail.
Designs include a Chippendale style chair, a woodland father figure holding a child, an elaborate Roman chariot designed to represent the Roman period of occupation and the Roman road which runs through the area, among others.
The scheme is part of a two year Chevin Through Time project which is being run by the Friends of the Chevin Forest Park and the West Yorkshire Geology Trust working with the support of Leeds City Council’s Parks and Countryside service.
Mr Green , who lives in Otley, says:
“I’m a fell runner and walker and know the Chevin well, and have been carving and sculpting around here for about 12 years, all hand carved works and bits and pieces on family and environmental themes.
The Group wanted to create an historic time line trail on the Chevin and the Chevin Estate Officer, Richard Marsh, approached me to do some works, saying why not do something which is a little bit bigger than the usual bits and pieces I had done.
“I was inspired by the challenge and especially the idea of returning the trees/sculptures to their original surroundings as part of the historic mapping of the natural history of the Wharfe Valley.
“Each design is about six feet tall and was carved with a chainsaw rather than being hand carved.
“For five years before I became head of art here, I was an artist in residence visiting schools in Leeds teaching sculpture and teaching to A level and GCSE students.
“There are nine sculptures altogether and they go back in time as people walk the trail…the first is a mountain bike with a compass and a climb around the back, so it’s all about modern recreation and Fawkes’ donation of the Chevin area to the public.
“Further back, the trail goes to a hiking boot and a butterfly in the Victorian period; then a family of deer; then an elephant representing Turner’s painting of Hannibal crossing the alps – Turner has a strong connection with Farnley Hall of course.
“Chippendale’s chair is the next one followed by the Roman chariot, then a Knotties Stone, which is like a Celtic decorative pattern a little like the Swastika Stone on Ilkley Moor.
“Then we have a large 7ft caveman holding his stone, and then back to an ammonite fossil which was a major geological remain in the glacial Wharfe valley.”
The wood for the sculptures was transported to the Chevin by Leeds City Council, who were holding some of the remains of the detritus of the 1987 hurricane. Shane sculpted the works onsite in the Danefield part of Chevin Forest Park after the trunks had been transported there.
“I carved them in the summer and October half term and last February and they took about three days each using a chainsaw at a site lower down in Danefield.
“The trees themselves were all ‘born’ on the Chevin and they are all very mature trees – sycamore, beech and oak and some are about 350 years old.
“I made them large for impact, presence, and so they don’t deteriorate with time – and also so they won’t get stolen! I think they will stand the test of time.
“I drafted some ideas with Richard Marsh and I had a lot of flexibility in the brief. I made some drawings, some clay maquettes and then created the chainsaw carvings.
“All the decoration is done with the point of a carving blade – there’s no hand carving on these.
“They were all tricky but aren’t the biggest things I’ve carved. A couple of years ago I went to the States on a Fulbright scholarship to represent Leeds, and went to Pennsylvania to the largest gathering of chainsaw carvers in the world and I was invited to represent Britain there, where I carved a tractor!”
“With regards to the Chevin works, the feedback has been very good - people have said sculptures are enjoyable because they feel they have really added to the area. And the nice thing is it’s not a private park – it’s open to anyone. It’s also nice to bring a mini sculpture park to this area.”
The trail is a mile and a half long and centres around Deer Park Wood, Memorial Wood and Quarry Wood in the Danefield area of Chevin Forest Park, accessible from the Shawfield car parks on East Chevin Road.
Mr Green was inspired to become a sculptor by the works of Henry Moore, the renowned Castleford and Yorkshire sculptor.
The group also hopes to create a podcast to download to mobile devices to allow people to listen to a commentary on each piece.
To find out more go to www.yorkshirecarver.blogspot.com.
Councillor John Proctor, Executive Member for Leeds City Council, said “It has been great to facilitate such an interesting project as this. Chevin Forest Park is a very popular place for people to visit and this project has allowed us to raise awareness about the heritage of the site in an interesting way through working with a local artist and local community groups. A route was chosen for the Heritage Time Trail that is as accessible as possible for the many different people who visit.
“This was not easy on The Chevin because anyone that knows the site will tell you it is steeply sloping in most places. However, the route is suitable for walkers, cyclists, horseriders, mobility scooters and powered wheelchairs, Lower Shawfield car park has an entrance that scooters and wheelchairs can get through. We will be producing a leaflet soon that shows the route in more detail and explains the significance of the design of each sculpture.”