Tuesday 14 June 2016

A beautifully carved door has appeared in the base of a tree near Forge Dam which has got the neighbours talking. Is it a portal to another world of hobbits, fairies or elves?

Sheffield City Council is keen to engage local children in woodland folklore. The opportunity arose to create something wonderful after a tree inspection revealed the need for root protection works on an old Horse Chestnut tree in the woodland surrounding Forge Dam Park in the south west of the city.

Local craftsman and ex-council ranger Henk Littlewood was commissioned to carry out the work to create the doorway to an imaginary world, which is carved with the words “Chestnut, plane and sycamore, who or what lies beyond the door?”

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Dave Aspinall, Woodland manager at Sheffield City Council said: “The area under the tree was eroding and some work was needed stabilise the roots.

“The idea that we could combine the work we are doing with local children and the essential work that was needed to stabilise the tree came to me as my own children have recently become interested in books by authors such as CS Lewis and JRR Tolkein and his world of hobbits and elves.

“We have a number of aims to promote understanding of trees woodlands and woodland folklore. This gave us the perfect opportunity to work with the children to create something magical for them and other visitors to Forge Dam to enjoy for years to come.”

The work is part of a project called ‘PORTALS’ which is currently under development but aims to create a series of similar initiatives around the city where funding has been secured.

Cllr Mary Lea, Cabinet Member for Culture, Parks and Leisure at Sheffield City Council said: “This is a beautiful old tree that required some remedial work. We saw this as a great opportunity to be creative in teaching the next generation about the importance of our woodland trees. As a city that prides itself on our reputation as The Outdoor City it was important that we commissioned something effective for the tree and enjoyable for those who use our greenspaces, as well as encouraging new visitors.

“Sheffield has more trees than any other city in Britain and the council look after 2 million of them – that’s four for every person – in around 2,000 open spaces across the city. Here we have combined our duty of care for our woodland trees while weaving an important message to children about developing their imagination and creativity. I am really pleased with the result of the work.”

Henk’s other work includes seven story posts commissioned for Chelsea Park, based on Edward Lear’s poem, The Owl and the Pussycat. His story posts feature creatures and symbols from the poem carved into sweet chestnut, and an oak bench carved with waves to represent the sea.

Other sites being looked at include Woolley Woods, Meersbrook Park and the Limb Valley with the long-term aim of creating a series of walks linked together with an accompanying guide.

Children will soon be able to post a message or wish to the woodland people via the Sheffield Parks and Countryside Facebook page at www.facebook.com/sheffieldparks