Friday, 22 June 2007


Due to the circumstances of the last few years I had lost touch with things that had been going on in Sudbury and Great Cornard. Last year on one of our walks out with Mick I noticed a tree had been carved in Bellevue Park and last week I took a few photos of it (one of them used on my Photo A Day blog) and resolved to find out what the carvings meant as they obviously depicted images of Sudbury. Thanks to the wonders of Google I have managed to find out the following information; the photos are mine.

Artist Jeff Higley worked with young people from Sudbury and Great Cornard Upper Schools and Suffolk Youth and Connexions Service to create ideas and designs for the Horse Chestnut tree which had been destined for removal.
The purpose of the project was to engage young people in community arts activities enabling them to see their ideas come to life in permanent sculptures.


The idea of the carvings is to celebrate both the history of Sudbury and the life of the park.
The large head represents the river Stour as a water goddess and guardian spirit of the town; the proximity of the river the river valley was the reason for the early settlement.


The Goddess has fish leaping through her hair and a heron catching one.heron

Her hair spills down the trunk and forms the river flowing around the base of the tree with the watermill represented at the base.

To the left of this is a map of Saxon Sudbury based on the Barry Wall illustration in his history of Sudbury.

Above this is a girl sliding down the weir; the artist was told that this is what children used to do. The girl also represents the people who swam in the river and used the lido that used to be next to the park. (this photo taken is all that's left of the lido)


On the left hand side is a Victorian girl playing hoop and stick; she represents the children who have played in the park over the years.
girl with hoop
Her hoop is a snake with its tail in its mouth; this is a symbol of time and eternity (also to be found in St. Gregory's church). To represent modern day play there is also a carving of a skateboarder.
If you follow the river carving round round the trunk it joins a cascade of cloth; the town's association with the broadcloth industry here;
roll of cloth
and the cloth unrolls into the river symbolizing the manufacturing processes that used the waters of the Stour.
Above and to the right is a market stall of 2006
market 2006
and to the left one from 1340.
The two stalls are imagined to have been on the same area of ground separated by hundreds of years. The man reaches across time to offer an apple to the woman. The woman is selling cloth (note the scissors) and the date alludes to the setting up of the broadcloth processes and the success of the local market.
On the cloth itself is the word "Sudbury" to name both the town and the involvement of students from the secondary school and young people from The Suffolk County Council Youth and Connexions Service in the creation of ideas for the design.
If you examine the lettering of Sudbury closely you will find plants and wildlife depicted as well as the saffron crocus, which was grown in what, is now the park to provide a cloth dye.
Above and to the left is "Great Cornard" as that school was also involved. The sunflowers depict the ones grown by local children each year and planted in the churchyard.
There are benches around the tree lettered with the names of those who sponsored the project.
Jeff Higley used axes, adzes a mallet and gouge to create the carvings. Many of the tools are hand forged and are of very ancient design - Viking and Medieval woodworkers would have no difficulty in joining in if they were around! The lettering designs were done by Kate Pyper

~Information from various Babergh District Council web sites~


Mark said...

Hi Ruth,How big is that tree, are you sure that there is only one...What a fantastic use of the tree though, it will certainly act as a focal point, love the carvings around Sudbury.

Cheers Mark

RUTH said...

This tree must be just under 3m; luckily I was able to take the photos without a step ladder!

leanne said...

hi mum, wow! how interesting! even though i was with you when you took those shots of the tree,and trying to guess what all the different pictures represented, now you've found out the actual history behind it all its even more fascinating. have a good day and love you lots xxxx

Akelamalu said...

WOW that's fantastic. The carvings are so beautiful and what a wonderful use for the tree. Thanks for sharing this Ruth, you did a great job with the camera! :)

Audrey said...

Great photography Ruth and the background information so interesting,and isnt it fantastic that the kids were involved in this wonderful project. The tree itself not only saved from being felled but turned into a beautiful and meaningful carving

dot said...

Enjoyed the post Ruth. Thanks for finding out about the carvings. They are really amazing and your photos are very nice.

Pat said...

Absolutely amazing carvings, Ruth. I so enjoyed this post of yours today!

Pat xxx

talj said...

Wonderful images Ruth and really interesting to learn about the thoughts/reasons behind the carvings! :o) {{HUGS}} xx

allotment lady said...

Fantastic - you are so good at taking photos and it is so nice to see you out and about. xxx

Jean said...

Wow! That's amazing! What a work of art. Thank you for giving us all the information. It is really fascinating!

jmb said...

Ruth, what a wonderful initiative for that teacher and his students. I hope they can preserve it for a very long time. Thanks for sharing the stories and photos with us.
A couple of years ago there was a man carving a totem pole on Granville Island, one of our main walking routes. We were encouraged to help him carve it, he showed us how to do it. Every week for the summer we walked by and added our bit under his instruction. At the end of the summer the pole was raised in situ and every time we walk past we say, we carve a little bit of that, along with hundreds if not thousands of other passersby.
I did answer you Hosta comment but not very satisfactorily at all.

CG said...

What amazing carvings and it's great to hear all about the history behind it! xxx

Shaz said...

What an excellent community idea. Those children have done an excellent job too x x

Mauigirl said...

What a fantastic tree and innnovative idea! Thanks for the fascinating pictures and information!

Elsie said...

How utterly fascinating. Thanks so much for sharing this. Your photos are so good, too!!!

Stay well





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