Thursday, 10 April 2008

Tehidy Tree Spirits

Some new faces have appeared in Tehidy Woods; a local beauty spot in west Cornwall.

St. Just based wood carver
Craig Harris has recently been commissioned to carve several 2 metre high tree spirits, which have been installed at various locations around the 250 acre country park.

Craig has been interested in trees for many years, and he specialises in carving unique tree spirit designs into many different types of wood.

Having seen the quality of Craig's wood carving, I took the chance to visit Tehidy to see the artist at work; and to ask him a few questions within the magical surroundings of his temporary workshop set in a clearing by a lake deep inside the dense woodland.

Alex: What inspired you to carve tree spirits?

I've always been a bit of a tree hugger on the QT. I guess I fell into carving tree spirits through stick-dressing; which is decorating walking sticks and staffs. I'd done a few commissions for friends and ended up going to a craft fair in Penzance which was a disaster from a stick selling angle. Anyway, while I waited for folks to come and buy my goods I started carving basic faces (tree spirits) into some off-cuts which sold before I'd even finished doing them. This gave me the inspiration to carry on carving tree spirits so I abandoned walking sticks and the rest is history.

Alex: Why only male tree spirits?

Craig: Dryads are mostly female nature spirits but Tree Spirits as far as I can recall have always tended to be mostly male.

Alex: Have you ever encountered a tree spirit, and if so what do you think they are?

Craig: Yes I have encountered tree spirits. I was with my son (Byron) and missus (Linda) at Madron Holy Well when Byron was around 4 years old. We sat by the well and lit three candles (one each) and placed them on some carved wooden floats that I'd made. We all said the following "Awake you Spirits of the forest green; join me now; let yourselves be seen."
While we sat and waited we just enjoyed the beautiful sunshine and blue skies. Byron was the first to see one; then Linda and I finally caught sight on a fellow with big bushy eyebrows and a really long swirling beard hiding behind the hawthorn bush by the side of the well. I have to say that I was not only amazed but also a little scared as I didn't really expect to see anything. I didn't feel as if I was in any danger but we didn't really stay for much longer afterwards.

Alex: What artists/crafters inspire you and your work?

Craig: I had never been into art or crafts before I moved to Cornwall so it is difficult to answer this question. One of my favourite wood carvers is Ian Norbury followed by Shawn Cipa. Ian Norbury's carvings are just unbelievable; talk about an amazing talent. If I ever get anywhere near as good as him I'll consider it a massive achievement.

Alex: Why wood carving?

Craig: I tried writing novels when Byron was born but didn't get any published. After the seventh attempt I just sort of fell into wood carving. Glad I did really as it's the most fulfilling job I've ever done.

Alex: Now your 8 tree spirit carvings have found a permanent home in Tehidy Woods, Cornwall, what other projects have you got planned?

Craig: I don't really have anything as big as Tehidy planned, but I'm excited about the coming year. Who know what the future holds but I've got a good feeling about it so bring it on whatever it may be.

Alex: Thanks for your time Craig, and good luck with your future projects.
The eight tree spirits can now be viewed in Tehidy Country Park, near Portreath, Cornwall. Seek them out, you will be well rewarded!

(Images: above left, one of the eight tree spirits now installed in Tehidy Woods. Photo credit Paul Atlas-Saunders. Top right: one of the smaller Tree Spirits that were for sale at Tehidy. Photo credit Alex Langstone.)

Craig's work has recently been featured on ITV Westcountry and can be viewed at the following craft fairs this year:

16th - 18th May - Craft & Design experience at Fawley, Henley-on-Thames.

22nd - 25th August. 'Festival of the Tree' at Westonbirt Arboretum, Tetbury, Gloucestershire 9am - 5pm every day.

4th - 5th October. Boscastle food and arts festival at Boscastle. 10am - 4pm both days.

Visit Craig's website by clicking the banner below, where you can purchase a tree spirit of your very own.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Seahenge on Display

Justification or Desecration - the debate continues...

Visitors will be taken back in time 4,000 years when
Kings Lynn Museum re-opens to the public on Tuesday 1st April after its £1.2 million redevelopment. For on display for the first time will be Seahenge – the man-made timber circle found on Holme beach in 1998 which has been hailed one of Britain's most exciting archaeological discoveries.

A new gallery has been created to show half the 55 preserved timbers from the circle and the giant upturned oak stump they surrounded, against an illuminated backdrop of Holme beach today.
Seahenge as it was before 1998

Archaeologists faced angry protests when they started to remove the timbers in 1999 to preserve and study them, from druid groups who felt a spiritual connection to the site and local people who wanted the structure to remain in place.

Lynn Museum project manager Hannah Jackson said mystery still surrounds what prompted the Bronze Age people to create the circle. "There are tantalising clues yet we still don't really know what it was for – it's a bit of an enigma," she said.

"The upturned stump could have been like a table top on which the body of a very important member of the community who had died would be laid out for the birds and animals to pick the flesh off.

"Then they would remove the bones for burial elsewhere, and that fits in with what we know of Bronze Age burial rites," she said.

Another theory suggests the circle was an ancient calendar, as its alignment ties in with the rising sun on midsummer's day shining directly through an arched timber forming the entrance.

Either way, it was significant enough to involve 50 to 80 of our ancestors in constructing the monument as evidence has been found of more than 50 different axes being used to shape the timbers, Miss Jackson said.

The main display is mirrored by a full-sized fibreglass replica showing how the structure would have appeared when it was constructed in 2049BC, complete with a model of a Bronze Age man. Visitors can enter and explore this area.

Since excavation, the Seahenge timbers have been to the Bronze Age Centre at Flag Fen, near Peterborough, to be studied and start the ten-year preservation process, and to the Mary Rose Trust in Portsmouth to finish the conservation work. The central stump is still with the trust until it is ready to join the display.

So despite excavation, study and preservation we are still nowhere near to making any new discoveries, prompting the same old question of why remove it in the first place? Maybe a better understanding would have been reached by studying the ancient monument in its original position? Was this a justified scientific project or the desecration of an ancient site? Let us know what you think.

The museum opens Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm. Admission is £3 adults, £2.50 concessions and £1.65 for 4 - 16-year-olds.