Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail

Location:

Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire

Year Created:

1986

Time to Complete:

Several Hours

Number of Artworks:

39

Website: www.forestofdean-sculpture.org.uk

The Forest of Dean sculpture trail started in 1986. “The brief given to the artists was very clear – that the works should respond intellectually, historically, physically and conceptually to the particularity of place. All of the works would be specific to the Forest of Dean. The artworks you see on the trail were developed and inspired by the place – from its history and its material qualities.” – Official Website. The forest has a lot of history hidden throughout it, the trees were grown to built boats for the napoleonic war. Iron and coal were mined here and evidence of charcoal burning litters the woods. This industrial past has been a huge source inspiration for a lot of the artists from the beginning of the trail to this day.


The sculptures on this page are in chronological order. Where I am missing a photograph, the title of the sculpture will link to a photograph of the work, or if the artwork has drastically changed over time. If no photographs are available online I have uploaded a photograph from a book.


Phase 1 1986

Due to the size of the area where sculptures were to be sited a limited number were originally commissioned, with space in between for people to walk. The first phase mainly included wooden artworks.

Sliced Log Star

Andrew Darke 1986 – 1996

This sculpture is a “tribute to the interior life of the tree. He skilfully dissected an oak tree into eight segments, before placing them inside out in a star shape. The space enclosed by the segments us the same as that which the tree originally occupied.” – The Sculpted Forest

The sculpture was over 12 feet tall. Nearby a smaller version was positioned. “The second work standing nearby is small enough for children to be able to look down upon and see the ‘unwrapping’ process that the main work has undergone.” – Andrew Darke. Below you can see this smaller work which starts off in the shape of the circular tree, which then turns into the final star shape.

Photograph of smaller piece from ‘The Sculpted Forest’ 1990

Artist’s Website: www.andrewdarke.net/sculpture_outdoors/index.html

Black Dome

David Nash 1986

“The dome is made of some 900 tapered and charred larch logs situated at the centre of a ring of trees” – Official Website. Inspired by the remains of charcoal burners in Grizedale Forest from his time working there. It took two weeks to create the charred larch poles that would form the base of the mound. Originally Nash wanted the work to be viewed from the path 50 yards away. On a subsequent visit he noticed how the work had been climbed all over and a path worn around the edge. He has since done more work on the piece. (I believe increasing the mound of charcoal so the larch posts are more obscured).

Fire & Water Boats

David Nash 1986

Created with off cuts from ‘Black Dome’ three charred wooden boats sailed across a marshy dell. They were joined by the three bits of wood carved out of the centre of the boats. Sited near the Dome in a small dip beside a man made water way. When I visited one of the boats was in the water, it must have been moved by a visitor. In all other photographs the three boats which still remain are in the marshy (now muddy) area.

Iron Road

Keir Smith 1986

Sited on a disused railway, twenty carved wooden sleepers depicting images of the industrial past. Reaching 100 feet, the sleepers came from the London Underground, and took Keir almost a year to complete.

Place

Magdalena Jetelova 1986 – 2015

This gigantic chair (often referred to as ‘Giant’s Chair’) was the first sculpture you would encounter after climbing the hill from the visitor centre. It came to be a symbol of the forest. It was removed in 2015 for safety reasons. As it was so iconic its decommissioning also took the form of an artwork. It was burnt and the charcoal remains became ‘Charcoal Measures’ a new temporary artwork in its place, see below. Decommissioned.

Artist’s Website: www.jetelova.de/works.htm

Cathedral

Kevin Atherton 1986

Drawing on the similarities between a forest and a cathedral (something artists often do). A large stained glass window hangs in the middle of the forest.“The image in the window is not a literal representation of this location, it’s a culmination of drawings and photographs I did around the forest.” – Kevin Atherton

Melissa’s Swing

Peter Appleton 1986, refurbished 1999 – 2014

Originally envisioned as an aeolian harp, an instrument that would make sound when the wind passed through it. To ensure it worked when the wind wasn’t present Peter added a rope to be pulled by visitors. Also realising people would swing on this rope, he attached a swing to the end. “When softly stirred the sound is like that of the wind in the leaves, but when vigorously shaken, it resembles the sound of thunder.” – Official Website. This very popular piece was removed in 2014 due to illness in the tree.

Nine Evening Fireflies

Peter Appleton 1986 – 1989

Consisting of “tiny battery powered red lights which flickered on and off to suggest the insect life of the forest.” – The Sculpted Forest “They were barely visible during the day, but at night seemed to be alive. Last time I was in the forest there were still four left, with their batteries having lasted three years.” – Peter Appleton

Windchimes

Peter Appleton 1986 – 1987

“Situated near the stained glass window, a cross section of a pine trunk with six branches sticking out, placed on a 10 foot pole. Three sails alternate with three bell shapes of different sizes to give different notes. – The Sculpted Forest. “The bells were made from scrap metal. I felt the sculpture had a Tibetan feel and rang for the departed.” – Peter Appleton

Bracken Knot

Stuart Frost 1986 – 1988

“Bracken Knot and Bracken Ring lasted no more than two summers, changing from bright green to brown before their eventual disintegration. The simple shapes of ring and knot were woven with great skill using a material that is very difficult to handle.” – The Sculpted Forest.

Photograph from ‘The Sculpted Forest’ Book 1990

Bracken Ring

Stuart Frost 1986 -1988

“A standing circular form of bracken. Placed in a glade.” – Stuart Frost. This artwork formed a ring standing on end, made entirely of bracken stalks.

Artist’s Website: www.stuartianfrost.com/artworks/smoke-ring/

The Four Seasons (Spring. Summer. Autumn.Winter).

Yvette Martin 1986 – 1989

These were four separate sculptures encompassing the theme of the four seasons. A brief description of Spring explains it as being “an oval shaped pond with copper coloured water, surrounded by webs of twigs and branches.” – The Art of Richard Long. A detailed photograph above also shows ‘Spring’ had a formation of rocks in the centre of the small pond.

“The subsequent seasons continue the theme of growth, maturity and decay, with the flowering forms of summer, the ripening seed pods of autumn and the skeletal vertebrae of winter”. – The Sculpted Forest. All four of the artworks were sited in one small area on the trail. I have found photographs of two of the other seasons but am not sure which is which.

Photograph from The Sculpted Forest Book 1990

Phase 2 1988

The second phases two years later introduced more materials to the forest, notably more metal and stone, whilst still remaining in keeping with tone and vision.

House

Miles Davies 1988

“The tall linearity of the piece echoed the shape and height of the surrounding trees but was also allied to the image of a mine shaft, the structure was capped by a simple house shape, as a metaphor for the shelter and security of the forest.” – Miles Davies

Observatory

Bruce Allan 1988 – 2014

“Observatory offers two vantage points, a viewing platform at the top of a staircase and a small room under the stairs with a seat. I hope that both places offer the chance of a detached view of the forest one walks through. It is painted black, not for dramatic purposes but rather as a foil to the light and life of the forest.” – Bruce Allan. Below is a photograph of the work how it originally looked without sides. These were clearly added for safety between 1990 and 1993. Decommissioned due to structural damage in 2014.

Photograph from ‘The Sculpted Forest’ book 1990

The Heart of the Stone

Tim Lees 1988

“Tim Lees has sited his sculpture on the top of the Rose in Hand coal mine, a disused drift mine overlooking the wooded Cannop Valley. Inspired by the idea of extracting material from the heart of the forest, he has cut the centre of a six-ton piece of stone from a nearby quarry and carved it into a smooth form that contrasts with the rough surfaces of the seven foot high flanking pieces. These remain standing uncarved like megalithic stones, of which there are several examples in the Dean.” – Official Website

Artist’s Website: www.timothylees.com

Cone & Vessel

Peter Randall-Page 1988

A pine cone and an acorn cup, enlarged, carved out of stone. Each positioned underneath the relevant trees, highlighting the combination of deciduous and coniferous trees that make up the forest.

Artist’s Website: www.peterrandall-page.com/

As There Is No Hunting Tomorrow

Zadok Ben-David 1988 – 1996

This group of deer are all galavanting as they know they are safe from being shot. Each on features a small symbol, the sun, balloons, one a small human figure. Which seem to depict what the deer are dreaming about.

“I built a group of deer, all black like their own shadows, mostly facing in one direction, and yet each one acting as if he is alone in the forest, caught in his own world, with his own fantasy visible. To achieve this I used very bright colours to stress both the alienation and the individuality.” Zadok Ben-David.

Artist’s Website: www.zadokbendavid.com/

Crossing Place (River Crossing)

Sophie Ryder 1988 – 1995

Thirteen Deer created out of rusty wire were positioned crossing a short expanse of water. Several deer were in the water itself. Sophie originally wanted to make twenty but with only a month to work in didn’t have time to create such a big herd. She was aware they wouldn’t last forever and would rust away but chose this location to dissuade people from interfering with the sculpture (from previous experience at Grizedale in 1986).

Artist’s Website: www.sophieryder.com/

Searcher

Sophie Ryder 1988 re sited 2001

I believe this deer was once part of Crossing Place, sited on the bank and so didn’t rust away in the water. The only remaining deer, it now stands on its own some distance from the footpath beyond a fence in the woodland.

Hanging Fire

Cornelia Parker 1988

The impression I wanted the sculpture to create was that of a natural phenomenon, but also of something ancient, as old as the forest. To invoke this feeling of age, cast iron seemed a very appropriate material to use. I liked the fact it would record the damp atmosphere and echo the colours of the place by rusting. Thinking of an image, fire sprang to mind, a flame that would perpetually burn because it was cast in iron. A circle or fairy ring was another image that kept recurring, this evolved eventually into a crown. – Cornelia Parker

Cornelia may also have created some other sculptures whilst at the Forest of Dean

Falling Crowns

Cornelia Parker 1988 – ?

“Nine crowns, each one wrapped with a circlet of different leaves cut out of copper, now oxidised to a green colour, appear to be tumbling through the tree.” – The Sculpted Forest

Unravelling Oak

Cornelia Parker 1988 – ?

“On the hanging tree stump, I nailed lead oak leaves to form an unravelling wreath, the central leaf appearing to be on the point of dropping off to join a small pile of dead leaves on the ground.” – Cornelia Parker

Brackets

Cornelia Parker 1988 – 1990

A “small, unobtrusive work. The lead (sycamore) leaves are affixed to two dead tree trunks in a small pond, near some bracket fungi whose shapes they echo.” – The Sculpted Forest

Photograph from ‘The Sculpted Forest’ book 1990

Grove of Silence

Ian Hamilton Finlay 1988

“Concrete plaques draw attention to the silence in the forest. Each inscribed with the word ‘silence’ using different languages (carved by Nicholas Sloane), are fastened high on tree trunks (the sites having been chosen by Sue Finlay).” Official Website

Photograph by J.Harvey

Vincennes

Ian Hamilton Finlay 1986

“A wooden sign carved with the name ‘Vincennes’ points enigmatically to the French forest of the same name” – Official Website

Photograph from ‘The Sculpted Forest’ book 1990

Artist’s Website: www.ianhamiltonfinlay.com/

Phase 3 1995 0nwards

Originally sculptures were placed all at once in the years 1986 and 1988. No more were commissioned as the forest wasn’t to be overcrowded with artworks. By this point some had been decommissioned allowing new artworks to be introduced. This no longer happens all at once but sporadically and when enough money can be raised for the works.

Dead Wood

Carole Drake 1995

“Forests-places of burial and concealment … five steel plates dug into the forest floor amongst a regiment of larch … they bear faint traces, memories of European forests devastated by war.” – Official Website

Artist’s Website: www.caroledrake.com/about

Smoke Ring

Stuart Frost 1996 – 2002

A ring was built into the ground linking to a chamber below where fires could be lit. When lit, the smoke from the fire would emerge from the circular ring creating an eerie effect.

Raw

Neville Gabie 2001 – 2018

“How would you calculate the volume of so random a form as a tree? What would that volume look like if you changed its shape? Could you cube up a whole tree, trunk and branches from the largest size to the smallest one cut? What space would its absence create in the canopy? A desire to answer some of these questions was the basis of the work.” – Neville Gabie

Artist’s Website: www.nevillegabie.com

Forest Column – Liza Gough Daniels

No details can be found about this artwork.

Life Cycle

Ingemar Thalin 2002 – ?

The photograph I have found shows bird boxes positioned at low points on trees. No further details about this artwork can be found.

In Situ

Erica Tan 2003

“It comprises a number of industrial earthworks that have been enhanced to draw attention to the post-industrial landscape. Traces of circles on the ground, bronze casts of bamboo and planted clusters of this fast-growing, non-indigenous plant emphasise the surrounding historic woodland. Memories of landscape in Singapore are brought in by Tan and challenge our understanding of an English woodland.” – Official Website

Artist’s Website: www.erikatan.net/

Echo

Annie Cattrell 2007

Positioned in a quarry. The rough rock wall is moulded in concrete. The resulting relief now stands before the wall, an echo of it.

Hill 33

David Cotterrell 2009

Using materials present at Camp Bastion where he was stationed during the war. Connecting the forest’s industrial past and it’s participation in previous wars, the use the timber for example. Cotterell built a huge pyramidal structure out of ‘HESCO Container units’. It also features a large metal perimeter fence to keep you away from the structure, whether for safety or part of the artwork I’m not sure. This is a very jarring work, I doubt many people would even associate it with being a sculpture, it certainly stands out in the forest.

Artist’s Website: www.cotterrell.com/

Photograph by A. Ferguson

Yasasin

Pomona Zipser 2016

A number of abstract shapes created out of wood, painted white, vaguely resembling a playground, I imagine the work is climbed all over. It is designed to “create a space and a structure from which to contemplate and observe the ever-changing forest.” – Official Website

Artist’s Website: www.pomonazipser.com/

Coal Measure Giants

Henry Castle 2016

Initially the sculpture resembles a Japanese Zen Garden. The arch structure is actually a replica of the wooden props holding up a mine. “The sculpture aims to bring to the surface aspects of what lies hidden, to most people below the ground of the Sculpture Trail.” – Henry Castle. This sculpture sits on top of “The main coal seam, (The Coleford High Delf) 300 meters below ground surface”. There are two parts to the sculpture each visible from the other. If you walk between the two you experience the equivalent depth to that Coal seem underground.

The structure at the far end consists of the same three parts that make up a mine prop but formed into an abstract tree like shape. Each structure is accompanied by a large rock from a local quarry containing fossils from millions of years ago when the coal was formed.

Artist’s Website: www.henrycastle.com/

Charcoal Measures

Onya McCausland 2016 – 2018

“Charcoal Measure” was a temporary sculpture set into the ground that was made from charcoal produced from the remains of ‘Place’ which was to be removed after thirty years for safety (see above). Due to the giant chair being so beloved, it was decided that the decommissioning of it would form an artwork in itself.

The original artist Magdalena originally wanted ‘Place’ to be temporary and subsequently burnt in a process authentic to the local history. Therefore McCausland incorporated burning and turning the wood into charcoal into this artwork. The charcoal remains were placed into two long trenches in the location where the chair stood. The lines traced “the locations of hidden coal excavations that exist 1000ft under foot. Artist Onya McCausland worked closely with the Deputy Gaveller of the Forestry Commission in Coleford to explore surveys of old mine workings and map the charcoal markings on the surface of the Trail.” – Official Website

This artwork was only temporary, with ‘Cusp’ new landmark sculpture planned for this spot in the future. (See Below)

Sentient Forest

Andrea Roe 2016 – pre 2019

Artist’s Website: www.andrea-roe.com/

“The forest has its own communication system known as mycelium, which enables a network of information and nutrients to pass between fungi and trees.” Made in response to this, individually LEDs run along the forest floor resembling roots from a tree. Sensors then pick up the presence of the visitor and “makes visible the flow of information between trees.” Decommissioned relatively quickly, I assume because the technology broke.

Threshold

Natasha Rosling 2019

“Inspired by the ancient history of mining beneath the surface of the Forest of Dean. Threshold’s large interlocking walls take a crevice-like form that visitors can walk through. The artist spent time at nearby Clearwell Caves, an historic iron and ochre mine, to take moulds of hidden underground rock faces marked with the impressions of pick axe marks and dynamite blasts. A large formwork was then constructed on site in the forest, lined with a patchwork of these moulds. Over a period of one month, pigmented concrete was poured in stages to form vivid red ochre walls that boldly contrast with the woodland backdrop.” – Official Website

Artist’s Website: natasharosling.com/

Cusp

Elpida Hadzi-Vasileva ?

Announced to be sited in the position ‘Place’ once stood. “This monumental design will be formed by intricate metal trusses, built locally and oak felled in the Forest of Dean that will be crafted into shape by the artist and local carpenters. Evoking the spirituality, heritage and landscape of the Forest and its people, Cusp will first appear tree-like in its form, as part of the landscape.  Closer to, the artist envisions that the ‘branches’ might suggest wings of a bird such as the Forest’s buzzards or opening hands in a gesture of welcome, giving and receiving.” – Official Website

Artist’s Website: elpihv.co.uk/

All Photographs Taken 2014

Above is a map I have edited to show all the sculptures over the years and their location.

Further Reading:

  • The Sculpted Forest, Sculptures in the Forest of Dean by Rupert Martin 1990

Webpage last updated 2019

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