A new life from old trunks in St Andrews Park

December 20 2016

The beautiful and ever popular St Andrews Park contains perhaps the highest concentration of mature trees of any public space in central Bristol and so it is always sad to lose a few of these ‘old friends’ due to disease or storms.

st andrews

The beautiful and ever popular St Andrews Park contains perhaps the highest concentration of mature trees of any public space in central Bristol and so it is always sad to lose a few of these ‘old friends’ due to disease or storms.

Last winter a number of trees had to be felled by the City Council as they were infected and potentially dangerous. This left a number of large trunks that offered opportunities as a place for children to explore or just as informal seating areas.

The Friends of St. Andrews Park saw the potential to commission wood sculptor Andy O’Neill to create some wildlife forms from two of the remaining sycamore trunks adjoining Maurice Road and Effingham Road. Pupils from Sefton Park School were asked to help and in early November they joined Andy O'Neill to offer some highly imaginative ideas for the tree carving, drawing pictures of animals that they might see in the park. Andy began work on carving the two trunks into unusual natural forms in early December and a snake, owl and an elephant were just some of the magical creatures to emerge from the bark.

The reaction from the children on seeing the completed carvings was of surprise and delight. 

“We both said a fox and it’s really amazing to see the designs that we’ve done. It’s a bit like out of your imagination and into the woods,” said one pupil.

“I think it looks better than we expected. I thought it would be just like ‘an owl’ but it’s got all the beautiful feathers on it and all the texture of fur and spikes. The way the snake wraps around the tree is amazing,” added another.

Andy’s work has impressed all who have seen it with one pupil saying: “He’s very good at it and it’s going to be here for a long time.”

Most of the cost of this work has been sponsored by local Gloucester Road businesses - Grape and Grind, Spicer and Cole and Elephant Estate Agents - as well as by individuals from The Friends of St Andrews Park.

Alex Jupp from Elephant said: “I think it’s going to be a really interesting and fun project. It’s a very well used family park - I use it with my two-year-old and other people in the office have young kids as well. It’s very much part of the community and it’s nice that some new life is being spread into these trees.”

Paul Bullivant is secretary to The Friends of St. Andrews Park, and this tree has been part of the view from his window, marking the seasons in the many years that he’s lived nearby. Paul said: 

“It’s the first time we’ve ever had sculpture like this. We did organise three contemporary sculptors creating work in the park and one of them put bows around all of the big trees. This is a much more natural form of sculpture and I think it creates added interest for the kids and older people too. 

“I’ve seen many dog walkers in the last few days stopping to talk to Andy about it and it makes the trees live on. When a few of the large trees were cut down and carried off by huge tractors I shed a tear. At least this way we get to have the trees remaining in the park.” 

Chair of The Friends of St. Andrews Park, John Mayne, is delighted with the partnership which is bringing a new life to these old friends. He explained:

“We are blessed with so many beautiful trees in this wonderful park and it is great that the partnership of The Friends, working with the City Council, Sefton Park School and our very generous local sponsors has made Andy’s inspired sculpture possible. We thank all involved.”