The Whitebeam tree that fell during the storm of 28th October has disappeared: cut up and shredded. It seemed such a violent end for such an established 'friend', but it had to be: the tree was leaning even before the winds got hold of it, and its shallow roots wouldn’t hold. However, it's nice to know that some other trees have a second life as outdoor sculptures, and Fortune Green has recently become home to two fine examples in the children's landscape area.
The Fortune Green fox arrived about three weeks ago. It was created by Robert Randall, a local resident and a professional woodcarver and restoration specialist. Robert knows the Green well, as he's lived in the area for several years and used to play football with his son there regularly 'until it became too embarrassing to play with Dad,' he laughs.
The fox is carved from a ‘green’ oak log, ie cut less than a year ago. It has to be green so that it's soft enough to carve. Soft to carve it may be, but oak can last outdoors for hundreds of years, cracking a little and changing colour but remaining basically sound. The log Robert had to work with was quite small, which limited what sort of pose the animal could have. 'Having it lying down would have been a bit dull,' he says, so he researched Victorian drawings of foxes in the Natural History Museum to come up with the final design. The carving itself took around 100 hours: Robert used a chainsaw to cut off big chunks of wood from the outside, but then used a range of finer tools for the detail. Finally, he used a blowtorch on the nose, ears and tail. This colour will gradually disappear over the months, leaving a weathered, silver-grey finish.
As well as small commissions like the Fortune Green Fox, Robert has been involved in much larger art projects too, such as one in Folkestone, Kent. Here, he was commissioned to carve a series of sculptures to stand in the harbour seabed, as figureheads to protect the fishermen. Each one is 5 or 6 metres tall, gets completely covered when the tide comes in, and wholly revealed when it goes out. 'Each sculpture stands in the seabed to a depth of 3 metres, and the holes for them could only be dug when the tide was out, which was a bit tricky!' he says. Closer to home, he's also recently completed the extensive renovations of the wood carvings at Kenwood House (the newly restored columns on the Heath side are part of Robert's work).
- Catherine Allison
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