forestry

Fforest Fawr Woodland Sculpture Trail

Fforest Fawr Woodland Sculpture Trail 150 150 Simon O'Rourke

We’ve had some beautiful weather this week – perfect for a woodland walk! With Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland still in lockdown though, we know that for many of us, that isn’t an option. And so, once again, we decided to bring the woods to you! This week we visit Tongwynlais, in South Wales, and the Fforest Fawr Woodland Sculpture trail….

Castell Coch viewed through fforest fawr

Castell Coch and Fforest Fawr

About Fforest Fawr Woodland Sculpture Trail

Fforest Fawr is a beautiful woodland close to Castell Coch and a short walk from the centre of Tongwynlais. As well as beautiful woodland, it has trails for cycling and walking and a tea shop that serves delicious Bara Brith.
There was also sculpture trail to attract and encourage visitors. As it was deteriorating, Natural Resources Wales commissioned Simon to create a new trail, which was installed in April 2018. All the sculptures are made from a Giant Redwood which was removed from Oswestry as it was dying, and posing a threat to the public. A perfect repurposing of a stunning resource!

Tree carving chainsaw artist simon o'rourke photographed with the redwood lynx from the fforest fawr woodland sculpture trail he created

Simon photographed with the lynx

Fforest Fawr Woodland Sculpture Trail: The Message

The commission from Natural Resources Wales asked for a trail that was engaging for families with young children. It was to make it have an educational aspect, and to be appealing to a broad range of ages as well. With that in mind, Simon returned to his illustrator roots. He wanted to give it a storybook feel which would encourage people to walk the whole thing, and so a new poem was born.

This is not unusual for Simon, as you will know if you read our blogs about Meadow Park and Page’s Wood.
Usually though, the trails focus on the current inhabitants of that area. However, in the case of the Fforest Fawr woodland sculpture trail, Simon also wanted to draw attention to what we  have lost……

close up of a redwood tree carving of a forest lynx from simon o'rourke's fforest fawr woodland sculpture trail

Close up of the lynx in the fforest fawr woodland sculpture trail

Past meets Present

Simon’s created story in poem form, about the wildlife that not only lives in the forest, but also species that are no longer there. The trail then ends with a call to action, encouraging the viewer to look after the woodland.
The aim of the trail is to make the viewer aware of what was there before, but also to highlight the need to preserve what is there now.

Bilingual Challenges!

The English form of the poem is in rhyming couplets which makes it fun and memorable for younger viewers. Translation always proves a challenge though. The Welsh translation isn’t in poetry form, but still conveys the feel, and – most importantly – the message of the story Simon and Liz wrote. 

Local press articles about the trail show it was very well received. We think you’ll like it too!
The concept sketches with the poem read as a beautiful children’s story book in themselves, so we have included those for you as well. We hope you enjoy them as much as the sculptures!

And so, without further ado, join us on a walk through the Fforest Fawr Woodland Sculpture Trail!

Introductory Sculpture:

In Fforest Fawr, deep, and green,
There’s so much to discover, so much to be seen,
All kinds of creatures, great and small,
And wonderful trees, towering and tall!

Yn nyfnder a gwyrddni Fforest Fawr,
mae cymaint i’w ddarganfod… Cymaint i’w weld:
Pob math o greaduriaid, – mawr a bach,
a choedydd rhyfeddol, – tyrog a thal!

Simple redwood sculpture of trees as part of simon o'rourke's tree carving chainsaw art woodland sculpture trail in fforest fawr

 

A Forest Timeline

On the path we see wonders in the forest today
But there are stories and treasures along the way!
There were creatures living here in the past, you’ll see,
Let’s take a walk, back through history!

Heddiw, ar y llwybr, gwelwn ryfeddodau yn y fforest.
Ond, mae storïau a thrysorau ar hyd y ffordd!
Cewch weld bod creaduriaid yn byw yma yn y gorffennol.
Gadewch inni fynd am dro…yn ôl drwy hanes!

 

timeline from fforest fawr woodland sculpture trail carved from redwood, featuring wolf, lynx and pine marten

 

A Red Squirrel

A long time ago, in the tops of tall trees,
Leaping and climbing on branches and leaves,
A long fuzzy tail, and nimble toes,
It’s a little red squirrel, with a little pink nose!

Amser maith yn ôl, – ar ben prennau uchel,
yn neidio a dringo ar ganghennau a dail,
wele gynffon hir, grychiog, a bysedd traed heini
wiwer goch fechan, – gyda thrwyn bach pinc!

A redwood bench with red squirrel details as part of fforest fawr woodland sculpture trail

 

The Brown Otter

Diving in rivers and hunting for fish,
A long, strong tail that goes swish, swish, swish!
Swimming through reeds, and with barely a splash,
It’s a sleek brown otter, that’s gone in a flash!

Yn plymio mewn afonydd ac yn hela pysgod, –
cynffon gref, hir sy’n siffrwd, siffrwd, siffrwd!
Yn nofio drwy gorsennau, – a phrin dynnu sylw, –
dyfrgi brown llyfn ydyw… ddiflanna mewn fflach!

 

A European Lynx

Crouching in the tall tall grass so green,
Silently stalking its prey, unseen,
The tufts on its ears, and the piercing eyes
It’s a European lynx! With its eyes on the prize!

Yng nghwrcwd yn y glaswellt tal, tal mor wyrdd, –
nas gwelir, – yn dawel ddilyn ei ysglyfaeth,
y cudynnau ar ei glustiau a’r llygaid treiddgar…
wele Lyncs Ewropeaidd, – a’i lygaid ar y wobr!

Fforest Fawr woodland sculpture trail by Simon O'Rourke: european lynx

 

A Red Deer

In the woodland we see a majestic sight,
With smooth red fur and a tail so white.
Velvety antlers that reach for the skies
It’s a stunning red deer, with big brown eyes!

Yn y goedlan, gwelwn olygfa urddasol
gyda ffwr coch llyfn, cynffon mor wen,
a chyrn melfedaidd sy’n cyrraedd i’r awyr…
Carw coch syfrdanol ydyw, – â llygaid mawr brown!

Simon O'Rourkes fforest fawr woodland sculpture trail: A Red Deer. Lifesized, created with chainsaws from redwood

 

The European Wolf

Hunting in packs, on the woodland floors,
Through forest and field, and across the moors,
Grey shaggy fur from its head to its paws,
It’s a European wolf, with strong, strong jaws!

Yn hela mewn cnudoedd ar loriau’r goedlan,
drwy fforest a chae, ac ar draws y rhosydd,
wele ffwr blewog, llwyd o’i ben i’w bawennau, –
blaidd Ewropeaidd, – gyda genau cryf, cryf.

fforest fawr woodland sculpture trail by simon o'rourke: european wolf

 

A Pine Marten

Hiding in old hollow trees, out of sight,
Climbing, and running, and hunting at night,
With soft sleek fur, and sharp little claws,
It’s a pine marten, foraging on the forest floor!

Yn cuddio mewn hen goed gwag, – allan o’r golwg, –
yn dringo a rhedeg ac yn hela’r nos, –
gyda ffwr graenus, llyfn, a chrafangau bach miniog…
wele Fela’r Coed, – yn casglu porthiant ar lawr y fforest!

Fforest Fawr Woodland Sculpture Trail by Simon O'Rourke: Pine Marten

 

Devil’s Coach Horse Beetle

Crawling in leaves, and black as night,
With spindly legs, and jaws that bite.
When it raises its tail, you’d better beware,
Devil’s Coach Horse beetle leaves a stink in the air!

Yn ymlusgo mewn dail, a chyn ddued â’r nos,
Gyda choesau main, a genau sy’n brathu, –
gwell ichi ochel pan gwyd ei chynffon:
Mae Chwilen Gnoi yn gadael drewdod yn yr awyr!

 

Wildlife Still Present in the Forest

These creatures are gone from the forest now
But the ones who live here today can be found!
There’s badgers and dormice and buzzards I’ve heard,
Goshawks, owls, and other woodland birds!

Mae’r creaduriaid hyn wedi mynd o’r fforest ‘nawr,
ond, gellir dod o hyd i’r rhai sy’n byw yma heddiw!
Clywais fod moch daear a llygod daear a boncathod,
gwyddweilch, tylluanod ac adar y goedlan eraill.

 

 

A Final Call to Action

We’ve learned about creatures from times gone by,
And the ones living here, that walk, and that fly.
Fforest Fawr is a beautiful place as we’ve seen,
Help us to keep it tidy and clean!


‘Rydym wedi dysgu am greaduriaid o’r amseroedd a fu
a’r rhai sy’n byw yma, – sy’n cerdded ac sy’n hedfan.
Fel y gwelsom, mae Fforest Fawr yn le hardd.
Rhowch help inni i’w chadw yn daclus a glân!

Mike James, Woodland Manager from Natural Resources Wales said:

“We hope people will enjoy our new sculpture trail and the woodland characters will bring to life the story of the forest, its wildlife, and its history. And with the story comes a strong message – the importance of looking after our environment and our forest so the wildlife which currently live there can continue to thrive for years to come.”

We hope you enjoyed the tour through Fforest Fawr Woodland Sculpture trail, and feel inspired to do your part in ensuring we will still be enjoying the wildlife we see round us for decades to come – and beyond!

chainsaw art/tree carver simon o'rourke photogrpahed with a redwood red deer he carved for fforest fawr woodland sculpture trail

Commissioning a Woodland Sculpture Trail

If you are involved with managing or maintaining and green area, and would like an educational sculpture trail, you can find out more about prices, concept etc by reading our Page’s Wood Case Study.
To chat to Simon about details, email us via https://www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/

We’re looking forward to hearing from you!

 

 

A Phoenix Arises

A Phoenix Arises 150 150 Simon O'Rourke

There’s something very poetic about this week’s featured sculpture, where a phoenix arises from a Douglas Fir.

Unlike many commissions where a tree is damaged or diseased and a customer wants to turn it into something beautiful, in this case there was nothing wrong with the tree. Rather, it had simply become too big for its location, and couldn’t stay where it was planted. This isn’t uncommon. Lots of people plant trees in gardens not realising how big they’ll get, and they become a potential hazards. There are plenty of ways to transform the story of that tree though if that happens, including commissioning a unique piece of art!

Work in progress on Simon O'Rourke's phoenix

Work in progress

The Legend of the Phoenix

The phoenix is a bird which has come to represent new life. More specifically, it has also come to represent the birth of something beautiful out of the end of something else. Greek and Roman mythology says this long-lived bird dies in a show of flames. Then, out of the ashes from the fire, a phoenix arises in a majestic show. It then seems fitting that a tree that has seen the end of its natural life, would give birth to this stunning phoenix sculpture. The parallels don’t end there. Legend also says the phoenix dies and regenerates after 1000 years of life. Did you know that’s also the possible life span of the Douglas Fir?! As an evergreen tree, the Douglas Fir can also represent eternal life – as does the phoenix because of its legendary cycle death and regeneration.

A Phoenix Arises by Simon O'Rourke

About the Sculpture

This particular fir  had an interesting shape that Simon needed to work with. Trees always come with their own sets of twists, knots and potential for future cracks, and Simon has to constantly adapt his design as he discovers those. The shapes and textures work so well in this sculpture though, you would never know it hadn’t been specifically and intentionally designed that way!

The twists and texture from the very base of the trunk to where the phoenix arises mimic the movement of the flames that legend says consumed the first bird. These get more intense, closer together and more detailed as they travel up the trunk, until they become actual flames. Their shape is also reminiscent of the sun, which is also closely tied the the legend of the phoenix.
From the centre of these flames, Simon’s stunning phoenix rises, with its wings unfurled as if about to take flight. Stray feathers carved into the trunk further down, enhance this sense of movement, as they seem to have dropped from powerfully flapping wings.

Full length picture of A Phoenix Arises by Simon O'Rourke showing the feathers falling in flight

Full length photo showing the falling feathers from the Phoenix taking flight

The Harry Cane

Are you as fascinated by the flames as we are? We think their texture and shape is magnificent, and creates a wonderful organic-looking flame for the phoenix to rise from.
Simon had to use a few different tools to create that look. Firstly, his Manpa Tools belts and cutters. Simon was recently sponsored by the company and is enjoying their products to take some of his sculptures to the next level. He also used gouging attachments gifted to him by The Harry Cane. These attachments were devised by Harry Cane to attach to the Stihl MS170 (Stihl’s recommended entry level chainsaw) or MSE170, and are ideal for ‘gouging’ as well as to add another level of depth. Anyone wanting to get their hands on one for themselves can visit The Harry Cane shop at http://theharrycane.de/shop.html

Harry Cane chainsaw attachments as used by Simon O'Rourke

The Harry Cane attachments on the Stihl MS 170

The Douglas Fir

It isn’t just the phoenix that has its own interesting story either. The Douglas Fir has its own interesting background too. As we are lovers of all things arboricultural and forestry, we’re sharing some random ‘tree trivia’ (should that be a hashtag?!) with you:

Tree Trivia

You probably know the Douglas Fir better as a ‘Christmas Tree’. Whilst we use several species to decorate our homes over the season, the Douglas fir is the most common.

The Douglas fir isn’t actually a true fir! That’s why we sometimes know it as Oregon Pine, Douglas Pine, Douglas Spruce and Puget Sound Pine.

The tree is native to the Pacific Northwest in the US (the alternative names might have been a giveaway).  It was brought to the UK by David Douglas in 1827 and is considered naturalised in the UK, Europe, South America and New Zealand.

Douglas fir is extremely versatile, and can be used for lumber, food, drink and traditional medicine. It is also frequently used ornamentally in trees and park, and is useful to wildlife as food and shelter.

The only remaining US Navy wooden ships are made from Douglas Fir.

Close up of the upper part of "A Phoenix Arises" by Simon O'Rourke

Close up of the phoenix rising from the sun-like flames

Testimonial

We hope you enjoy learning more about the trees Simon works with. We also hope you love the phoenix as much as we do. More importantly, as much as the owner does! We leave you this week with this testimonial from a very satisfied customer.

As always, if you find yourself in the same situation as this client, contact Simon on [email protected]  to talk about ways of giving it new life.

 

Those Autumn Leaves – Enjoying The Changing Season

Those Autumn Leaves – Enjoying The Changing Season 150 150 Simon O'Rourke
“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.”

In this quote Albert Camus describes beautifully the stunning displays of colour that we see at this time of year. From September, the trees around us change to display rich golds, fiery reds and warm oranges. Whether we mourn the loss of summer or enjoy the change of season, none of us can deny that Autumn leaves are glorious, and we think September and October are the perfect time to get outside and enjoy that beauty. The temperature hasn’t dropped too much, and the nights are not too dark yet. Plus, there’s the added bonus of being able to find fruits and berries to take home! If you fancy enjoying the outdoors this Autumn, then why not plan to follow one of Simon’s forest trails?

Stanley by Simon O'Rourke as Marford Quarry

Stanley, one of Simon’s sculptures along the trail at Marford Quarry

Sculpture Trails

Over the years, Simon has completed several ‘sculpture trails’ throughout the UK. Typically these add points of interest to the walk and give information about the local area. Usually the sculptures themselves reflect the environment, such as this lynx found in Fforest Fawr. Although the lynx, and wolf that make part of that trail are rarely seen any more, it is not that long ago that they roamed that part of South Wales.

Fforest Fawr Lynx by Simon O'Rourke

Fforest Fawr Lynx by Simon O’Rourke

Close up of Lynx at Fforest Fawr by Simon O'Rourke

Close up of the face of the lynx at Fforest Fawr

Pages Wood

Another example of these forest sculpture trails that Simon has created are the two in Page’s Wood. He and his wife Liz wrote a story that followed an animal character along each trail. Each sculpture showed an encounter with another animal resident of the woodland, and the story with each gave information about that animal. The trails have been so popular, that he will be back later this year to make some additions and tweaks!

Horatio Hedgehog meets Squirrel at Page's Wood Sculpture Trail by Simon O'Rourke

Horatio Hedgehog meets Squirrel at Page’s Wood Sculpture Trail

Those Autumn Leaves

While you’re out enjoying these trails, have you ever wondered why it is that the leaves are changing colour and falling though?
We have! And as we love all things ‘tree’ and forest, we thought we’d share a couple of random Autumn tree facts while reminding you of some of the forest trail animals you could go and see.

Wolf by Simon O'Rourke at Fforest Fawr

Howling wolf at Fforest Fawr

The Wonder of Nature

Fact One:
Trees don’t ‘lose’ their leaves, they actually actively shed them to ensure their survival! Find out more here.

Fact Two:
Trees can sense the shortening days, and that’s how they know when to begin shedding leaves

Red Deer at Fforest Fawr by Simon O'Rourke

Red Deer at Fforest Fawr

Fact Three:
Leaves change colour as the tree absorbs all the nutrients out of the leaf and stores it for winter. A little like an animal eating well and stashing food to prepare for hibernation!

Fact Four:
The colour of a tree’s ‘Autumn leaves’ depends on what other pigments the tree has. For example, hickories, aspen and some maples have a lot of carotenoids so they turn golden colours. Oaks and Dogwoods have a lot of anthocyanins so they turn russets and browns.

Verity Vole by Simon O'Rourke, part of the Page's Wood sculpture trail

Verity Vole, the second protagonist at the Page’s Wood sculpture trail

Fact Five
Nature is amazing, so it is no surprise that though leaves fall, they still have an important role. As they decompose, their nutrients trickle into the soil and feed future generations of plant and animal life. Quite likely, fallen Autumn leaves are essential not just for the survival of the individual tree, but for whole forests!
This means that you need not militantly rake up every fallen leaf.
In fact, leaving them on the ground is actually a helpful thing for other wildlife.

Horatio Hedgehog meets a fox at Page's Wood. By Simon O'Rourke.

Horatio Hedgehog meets a fox at Page’s Wood

What other fun facts do you know about Autumn? Why not drop us a comment and share some of your favourites.

If you enjoyed our tree facts and want to know more, Liz also teaches forest school and can be booked ofr regular or ‘one off’ sessions. Contact her at [email protected]

Don’t forget, that if you are out and about at one of Simon’s scultpure trails, use the hashtag #simonorouke or tag us using our Facebook page  (@simonorourketreecarving)or Instagram Account (@simonorourke)

Radagast the Brown, (Blue and Pink).

Radagast the Brown, (Blue and Pink). 150 150 Simon O'Rourke

Isn’t he amazing?! Meet Radagast the Brown!

Radagast the Brown by Simon O'Rourke

 

Simon recently worked on this sculpture of Radagast the Brown from Tolkien’s ‘Lord of the Rings’.

We think he makes a striking figure rising up among the shrubbery. We love the detail too like his wise, all-seeing eyes and wild beard. It’s so easy to imagine birds nesting in it, as the story goes. The bird on his head and the bottle of medicine are perfect references to the series. Radagast the Brown is known to communicate with ‘beasts and birds’, so it is especially appropriate that this sculpture is found outdoors.

Radagast the Brown by Simon O'Rourke

 

 

Why the decision to have a wizard in this otherwise typical garden?

Sadly, it came about because of disease in the tree: a blue atlas cedar.

The fungus responsible is sirococcus, and its incidence has gradually been increasing throughout the UK since 2016. It’s thought that it spreads through rain splash, strong winds, and possibly seed transmission, and there is unfortunately no known cure. Damaged trees must be cut back. Although it will sometimes kill younger trees, the RHS reports mature trees can live for many years.

If you are the owner of a Blue Atlas Cedar, there are a couple of signs to watch out for. The main one is pink needles. This is a sign of death, and they will later turn brown and drop off. The tree may also get cankers, gum bleeds, and grow fruiting bodies on the dead leaves. Click HERE to find out more and see images of things to look out for. Forest Research have also published a helpful article HERE.

Sirococcus-conigenus-on-cedar-of-Lebanon-

Example of the typical pink needles of an infected tree.

Government bodies are also trying to track the spread.

That means it’s important to report it, if you see a tree you think may be infected. The link and everything you need to know to make a report can be found HERE. Reporting is so important, so we ask you to PLEASE consider doing your part.

Radagast the Brown by Simon O'Rourke

All is not lost though if  your own tree is infected!

Simon is on hand to transform it and give it new life. Whether a fantasy sculpture like this, or something more ‘natural’ like THESE are your thing, Simon is able to create something beautiful for your garden.

Email  [email protected] to find out how he can help you.

 

Arb Show 2019

Arb Show 2019 150 150 Simon O'Rourke

Every year in May, the Aboricultural Association runs its flag ship event: The Arb Show. It describes itself as being “A celebration of the science of trees”, and Arb Show 2019 definitely lives up to that!

Simon & Stihl

This year the main sponsor for the event was Stihl – who also sponsor Simon! They had a large exhibit at the event, and Simon was invited to take part. Over the two days he performed demonstrations of chain saw carving, and met with people to talk about his art.

Stihl Exhibit at The Arb Show 2019

Simon at the Stihl Exhibit, Arb Show 2019

Demonstration Time!

Simon carved two pieces over the two days, while talking people through his process. He used Stihl’s new MS500i chainsaw for the first time to make the first piece; a horse’s head. Looking at the finished piece (can you believe that was a speed carve?!), we’d say it’s a hit!

Simon O'Rourke with the finished speed carve horse

Simon with the finished speed carve horse

Arb Show 2019 Auction

At the end of each day the pieces were auctioned off for the charity Greenfingers, which creates gardens and respite spaces for children in hospice care across the UK. Thank you to the winning bidders, and we hope you enjoy your sculptures!

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If you’re thinking of coming to check out one of Simon’s demonstrations in future, we thoroughly recommend The Arb Show.

The venue (The National Arboretum), is actually worth a visit at any time of the year. However, during The Arb Show, you can also enjoy exhibits from companies who work with trees in a whole range of ways.

Stihl Exhibit at The Arb Show 2019

Stihl Exhibit at The Arb Show 2019

Beyond the Carving

Exhibitors range from manufacturers of equipment for people working in forestry to conservation groups, from forest schools to artists using trees. Tree surgeons, tree carvers, timber processors and even tree climbers also come along to enjoy the show! In fact, it is also home to the 3ATC open climbing competition!

As well as the expected food stands, there is also entertainment and the opportunity to try your own hand at some of the timber sports – or even axe throwing!

With camping on site for those who want to spend both days enjoying the show, maybe we’ll see you next year?

Earth Day 2019

Earth Day 2019 700 400 Simon O'Rourke
,Honouring Earth Day 2019

We’re marking Earth Day 2019, by talking about one of Earth’s (and Tree Carving’s!) most vital resources: Trees!

Trees are the biggest plants on the planet. They give us oxygen, store carbon, stabilise the soil and give life to the world’s wildlife. They are also the material that forms the basis for everything that Simon produces , whether life size human form commission, furniture, or accessories (have you ever seen his bowties?!)

Carving a dragon into a fallen tree

Carving a dragon into a fallen tree

Why Tree Carving?

Simon definitely hadn’t planned on tree carving as a career. After A levels, he began a degree in illustration. He actually hoped and planned to be a freelance illustrator of children’s books. After graduation however, he took a job with Acorn Arbor Care as a tree surgeon. The idea was, this would give him an income while he built up his illustration portfolio. And so, at this time he began working with chainsaws. In fact, the first saw Simon used was made by Stihl, . In one of those ‘full circle’ kind of stories, they are now his current sponsors!

Realising he could be creative as well as practical with a chain saw, Simon tried his hand at carving. There was something special for him in discovering that “such a potentially destructive tool can be used to create beauty”. After that discover, the rest – as they say – is history!

As well as the appeal of the chain saw, the wood itself is full of appeal. Part of this is in its ever-changing nature, which then shapes the finished product, beyond Simon’s first idea. He can plan a piece with detailed sketches and have an idea of what he wants it to look like. However it has to evolve a lot once the carving actually begins. The grain dictates where the natural strength of the timber is and can give so much inspiration for the shape of a sculpture. Every tree is unique and you never know what you’re going to find when you cut into a piece.

 

The timber used for this carving of a shire horse. The natural grain enhances the texture and shape of the horse.

The timber used for this carving of a shire horse. The natural grain enhances the texture and shape of the horse.

Sourcing Wood Responsibly

On Earth Day 2019  when we are thinking about preserving the world’s resources, it is also natural to be wondering where all this wood is coming from. Is tree carving damaging to the environment?

Far from it. Tree carving is one of the more sustainable mediums for sculpture. Working with a natural material means that although it weathers well, eventually it will degrade, as all wood does. At this point, it is returned to the earth – no land or ocean filling here!
In addition, Simon uses trees that have either fallen naturally, or trees that have become dangerous or diseased. Most importantly, he always uses wood that has come from a sustainable managed location. This includes domestic housing and managed forests and woodlands. One example of this which went viral earlier this year, is his carving ‘ ‘The Dragon of Bethesda‘. This dragon commission actually came about because of an arboretum owner wishing to do something with a storm-damaged fallen tree.

The Dragon of Bethesda, before and after

The Dragon of Bethesda, before and after

Forest Education

As lovers of the outdoors and environmentally aware citizens, Simon and his wife Liz enjoy the opportunities that they get to educate others too about the resources we have and how to take care of them through their work. Whether it takes the form of educational captions on a nature trail commission, sharing their hearts in interviews, or through Liz’s role as a forest school teacher, their appreciation for the world around them is clear, and not only do they model responsible use of the world’s resources as individuals and businesses, but they also inspire others to do the same.

Liz at a forest school session. They even recycle the re-purposed wood, using off-cuts from scupltures for classroom supplies like these wood chips!

Liz at a forest school session. They even recycle the repurposed wood, using off-cuts from sculptures for classroom supplies like these wood chips!

You can talk to us about Simon tranforming your own damaged or fallen trees at [email protected]

 

Maes Y Pant Fort

Maes Y Pant Fort 700 400 Simon O'Rourke
Simon is the artist behind most of the work we get at www.treecarving.co.uk. However, we have a few affiliates who work with us on certain projects. We also recommend them to clients if Simon is not available for a commission. This week our blog features a project two of them worked on. The Maes Y Pant fort.

The fort at Maes Y Pant, Marford*

Maes Y Pant
Maes Y Pant is a former quarry, which is now a forested area run by local communities, local to us here in North Wales. It features woodland trails and a children’s play area, and is of particular interest to conservationists because of the unusual Bee Orchid which can be found there.  You can find Simon’s work in a few different places around the site. In fact, visitors are actually greeted by ‘Stanley’ at the entrance to the park. Pictured below, he is one of Simon’s older pieces.

Whilst it’s a privilege to be able to travel and see our work in places around the world, there is also something special about a local project that enables us more easily to see people enjoying it over the years.

Stanley greets guests at the entrance ***

The Commission

The brief for this project was to construct a play area and fort within a palisade for families to use, which would also reflect and portray the wildlife on the site. Our affiliates Nathan Woods and Daniel Barnes completed most of the work over nine days in Spring 2017. The fort is made from some of the commercial softwood crop that helps fund the site.  This was a great idea because it gave us affordable and easy-to-access source of timber. It also ensured that the finished project is totally sympathetic to its environment.

Welcome sign by Nathan Woods at the Maes Y Pant fort*

Finishing Touches
This then left Nathan with one day for detailing – the sign, carved weaponry, and the dragons on the see-saw. After all, what’s a fortress without some weapons?! These are all historical weapons such as bows and arrows and swords, which is in keeping with the historic aesthetic of a fort, and not only looks great, but helps encourage and inspire imaginative play in the children using the area.
We asked Nathan about the project.
“Thankfully the weather was unusually kind for the time of year and the work, whilst being ‘intensive’ went according to plan” – something that is never guaranteed carving at this time of year, and that we are ALWAYS thankful for when it happens!

Nathan’s weaponry detailing on individual posts in the fort*

Phase Two
The second phase was completed in January of this year. Nathan returned for two days to complete this wonderful bee totem pole, and a welcoming ladybird seat. These additions further reflect the local wildlife, and create a rest space so families can pause and enjoy the environment or watch their children play.

Bee totem pole and ladybird bench*

If you happen to be in the area, why not tag us in your photos? We love seeing you enjoy our work!

Local boys enjoying the fort this summer**

About Nathan
Nathan is a hugely experienced tree carver. He has worked for/with us for just over 10 years, over many different projects ranging from when we were just a tent in a frozen field to the current set-up! He is currently only available for work through Tree Carving.
About Dan
Daniel is a gifted carpenter and has worked with us for four-and-a-half years. He specialises in high quality, bespoke work and especially enjoys making and installing kitchens and doors, and creating furniture in its organic form. He is also available through Tree Carving.
* Photo credit Nathan Woods
** Photo credit Yvonne Ankers
*** Photo taken from Maes Y Pant website

A Very Wooden Valentines

A Very Wooden Valentines 150 150 Simon O'Rourke
Wooden Valentines

After a January seemed to last forever, February is finally here and that means love is in the air! Or at least, all things pink and glittery are!
Whether you view Valentines Day as a romantic celebration or a money-making Hallmark Holiday, we thought you might enjoy some of these ‘love’ themed creations from Simon, and maybe be inspired for some of your own gifts for loved ones, whether for Valentines, birthday, anniversary or even a wedding. Who knows, maybe this year you could have a unique wooden valentines gift!

Beauty and the Beast

 

Tale as Old as Time

For many of us, Disney was our first introduction to romance, and Beauty and the Beast has enthralled and entertained since Celine Dion first sang ‘Tale As Old As Time’ in 1992. We often get asked about the colouring in this sculpture. It was actually accidental (steel in the log) but has really grown on us, and as the wood weathers, will make for a stunning rustic look in a few year’s time.

 

Elephants in Love

These elephants in love already warm our hearts, but will take on an even more whimsical, fairy tale look when the magnolia behind them is in full bloom! Designs like this are perfect to make something more personal and romantic out of a practical/functional gift like this bench. Ideal for that fifth (wooden) or ninth (willow) wedding anniversary!

 

Photo used by permission of Abbi Photography

 

Wooden Wearables

If it’s going to be a wooden gift, it doesn’t just have to be a sculpture. Last year our friends wanted something truly unique and personal to them, and commissioned these wedding rings for their colourful autumn wedding. Jewelry is a classic gift for a loved one, and if the source is something meaningful to you like a tree from your favourite park or a first home, how much more special!

 

Custom wedding rings and ring stand

 

However you spend Valentines Day, we hope you enjoy the day and feel loved and appreciated. Oh! And find plenty of discount priced chocolate in the days that follow!!!!!

Wedding rings and bouquet photo supplied by and used by permission of Abbi Photography

Carving Dragons

Carving Dragons 150 150 Simon O'Rourke
Carving Dragons

It isn’t everyday you hear someone saying they count working with dragons among their job description! But that’s exactly what we get to say when people ask! OK, it isn’t quite as entertaining when we admit it means carving dragons, not training them or something. But still, pretty cool!

Maybe we shouldn’t be too surprised about how often Simon is asked to create a dragon. We’re based in North Wales where recorded legends about dragons date back to the 7th century! They have long been used as a symbol of national identity, and we even have one on our flag!

Y Ddraig Derw, Bethesda

Y Ddraig Derw

Earlier this year Simon carved “Y Ddraig Derw“, or “The Dragon of Bethesda” (above) and we have continued to be overwhelmed by the number of appreciative messages and amazing photos that are coming in from those of you who have stopped by to see it. Y Ddraig Derw was far from our first dragon carving though, and talking dragons for a couple of weeks triggered some fun for us reminiscing about other dragons in the past. As ‘carving dragons’ is definitely our theme for the year, we thought we’d give you a bit of a round up of some of the dragons Simon has made so far. And don’t forget to look out for more!

Prize-winning Hemlock the Dragon on display at Wrexham Museum

Imagine Dragons

Carving dragons represents some great challenges and a lot of fun. Let’s face it, nobody REALLY knows what a dragon looks like! Although we have a pretty set idea, Simon still gets to use a lot of imagination and creativity deciding the scale, proportions, shape and details – more so than when carving an animal we all know such as his owls, horses, labradors, eagles etc where although there is variety, there is still a very definite and specific anatomical structure to be represented.

Ever wanted to BE a dragon? This carve of dragon wings in Japan was intended for just that reason! The ultimate selfie/photo prop!

 

Dragons also mean portraying a contrast between the great size and strength of their bodies, wings and snouts with minute details such as teeth, a tongue, individual scales, and even the texture of those scales.

Welsh dragon carve in process

Receiving their Wings

There’s also the wings to consider. If they are outstretched, there is an engineering challenge to be able to scale them in a way the dragon won’t overbalance. There’s also then the question of how best to attach them securely. Especially if the dragon will be out in the elements and at the mercy of the wind and rain! Alternatively if Simon uses other material instead of wood (as he did with Hemlock), what material best represent the density and texture of the animal whilst also fitting in with the style of carving and colouring and texture the timber will take on?

Carving a dragon image into a storm-damaged tree

Telling Their Story

And then there’s the story. Dragons appear in many contexts from national legends to epic movies like The Hobbit or Harry Potter through to the cute and humorous beasts we find in family stories like Pete’s Dragon and How to Train Your Dragon. Which of these is the finished carve to represent? And how is that done? A glint in an eye? The shape of an open mouth? The angle of the head? So much possibility!

Crouching Dragon from a few years ago

The (Dragon) is in the Details!

Dragons also have so many different details and aspects that are unique to them, that it can be fascinating to incorporate them into something else (like this arch below), and for it still to be distinctly ‘dragon’. Maybe it’s a bench, or an arch, or a box, or a walking stick, but whatever the commission, a dragon will always create a technical and aesthetic challenge, which, like the dragon in flight, we are more than happy to rise to! Indeed, “Watch this space” for more dragons later this year!

Dragon mouth archway

We hope you’ve enjoyed seeing some of our favourite dragon carves from the last few years. Which is your favourite?

As well as accepting commissions, Hemlock the Dragon is available for hire for weddings, parties, events etc. Please email us at [email protected] for information

 

Y Ddraig Derw: An Adventure Worth Telling

Y Ddraig Derw: An Adventure Worth Telling 150 150 Simon O'Rourke

“IT SIMPLY ISN’T AN ADVENTURE WORTH TELLING IF THERE AREN’T ANY DRAGONS
A quick internet search shows nobody really knows who said this any more. Whoever it was, it still holds true that there is something about a dragon story which captures imagination. That’s even more true in Wales, where dragons have been linked with the identity of the nation since the 600AD! And it certainly seems the case with Y Ddraig Derw who has gone viral this week!

Y ddraig derw in Bethesday, North Wales

An Adventure Worth Telling

We already shared that this year has a bit of ‘dragon’ theme for us, and last week saw us working on another dragon sculpture. This time, Simon carved on location in beautiful North Wales, and it has been named ‘Y Ddraig Derw‘ (The Oak Dragon) by locals.
This dragon captured the attention and hearts of people who saw it in person and online, even before it was finished,and we’ve been overwhelmed by the positive messages, and the number of people sharing online. It even appeared in the Daily Post  and BBC!
We’re grateful and humbled, but also delighted so many of you have already been able to enjoy our Dragon of Bethesda.

The Commission

Several years ago, a 200 year old oak split, and half that fell was lying across a rock.  Sometimes in carving, we find the tree and sometimes the tree finds us! In this case it was the latter. This piece of timber was simply begging to be carved! Everything about it was perfect, from the type of tree, the length, positioning and its 30″ diameter. The commission itself came from the owner of the arboretum close to Bangor, Dr Alofs.

 Fallen oak that was to be transformed into Y ddraig derw

 

The Process

Y Ddraig Derw took six days to complete, making the most of the hours of daylight that we had. Simon completed the entire dragon on-site rather than transporting things from the workshop. This meant carrying large pieces up to the site use for the wings and legs. Definitely a good work out!
With wood that large and heavy, the process of incorporating them into the sculpture isn’t easy, but with patience and team work, we got there! The first few days focused on the head and then the shape and movement in the body, with the last two focused on texture and details. For those who would like to see more of the process, we uploaded video like this one during the week on our Facebook page.

The Finished Dragon

The finished sculpture is about 25′ long, and overlooks the road. With its craning head and open mouth, it looks like a guard dragon, roaring over those who would seek to enter its territory! Although it is on private land, there are a few public footpaths nearby for viewing, and it is visible from the southbound A5 between the first and second exits.

Simon O'Rourke pictured with Y ddraig derw in Bethesda, North Wales

Simon at work!

Visiting the Dragon

Although Y Ddraig Derw is visible from the road, it’s a tricky spot to stop for photos. We’d love for you to see him in person, but encourage you all to do it safely please! For exact location and tips for parking, please visit THIS POST on our Facebook page (it’s public, so you don’t need Facebook to see it).

Thank you once again for all the kind words and encouragement, and for sharing your photos. It’s always great to hear from you, and to see you enjoying our pieces. We’d love it if you could tag us in your posts so we can see them too! Use #simonorourke and #dragonofbethesda for this dragon.

Y ddraig derw by night.

PS: For those of you who can’t get to this dragon, why not have our dragons come to you?
Hemlock the Dragon is available for hire for shows, weddings, parties etc, and is always a big hit!

 

Photos of Y Ddraig Derw at night are taken by local photographer Derfel Owen and used with permission