Photograph by Kat Weatherill Photography
Our beautiful new Red Squirrel statue installed onto the stump of the old Norway Spruce in October 2022
The tree used to be the family Christmas Tree, brought into the house each Christmas during the 1970’s, until it became too large. It then remained in the ground to the left of the driveway as you enter the grounds of Lowfield House.
In the storms of January 2022 our beloved old Christmas tree was blown down and blocked the valley for a few hours. Fortunately, no one was hurt nor any damage done other than to the roadside railings. The growth rings aged it at 45 years old and stood 78ft tall, meaning that it was planted out in 1977, The Queens silver Jubilee year.
Initially the tree was only cleared sufficiently by the council to reopen the road. The remainder of the tree was taken away by local farmer and forestry contractor Mike Edmonds and the log lengths were sold to a local timber mill.
The original thought, was to remove the stump and re landscape the area, but we realised that this would be a massive exercise.
Removing the stump was further complicated by the mains water pipe, supplying the valley, running directly under the stump.
Once the fallen timber was cut from the upturned stump, it fell back into almost the exact position it was in, before the tree was blown down.
We then decided to make a feature of the stump, rather than removing it, we emailed all the guests that had stayed at Lowfield over the 2021 season asking them for ideas such as carving the stump etc. We must thank John Davison and his wife Coline for suggesting the stump being used as a plinth rather than it being carved, recommending a wildlife sculpture by Clare Bigger which could be mounted on the stump. They had one of Clare's commissions in their garden and said what a beautiful piece.
On viewing Clare's work, choosing her to produce something suitable was an instant decision, what we had to decide was what to have sculpted. Because Little Langdale is within the Red squirrel range and we still see them occasionally in the valley the squirrel was the natural choice.
To build a squirrel sculpture in the traditional stance with acorn, and to be made from copper to reflect the copper mining heritage of the valley.
Copper could not be used, as it would be too soft for Clare's style of sculpting, and she tended to work with stainless steel. We even looked at having the stainless-steel sculpture copper plated but tests on the small maquette (concept model), that Clare created so we can better visualise how the sculpture will look from all angles, showed that the copper plating was too bright and did not look right. Clare then suggested that the stainless steel could be heat tarnished to give the rustic red tint.
Since its installation, the Squirrel has generated great interest from passers-by and photo opportunities.
Our beloved old Christmas tree across the village lane
Lowfield House, a luxury rental property that is still owned by the same family, contacted me asking for a design for a red squirrel to sit atop this stump. Little Langdale is of the last red squirrel habitats in the lakes.
After looking at various poses we decided that the traditional red squirrel stance with the s bend tail and compact body is the most typical and sets it apart immediately from its grey counterparts. As you know I like a bit of movement, so how to give it life? Watching squirrels and how they move, their tails appear to flow behind them – light but so expressive. So, the tail was the key along with a twist of the body, and a hint at the musculature that allows them to spring away at a moment's notice.
To give the squirrel real impact, it needed to be larger than life. In this case almost 4 times larger at 900mm high. It started with a wire armature to set out the pose and proportions. Next, I made the head, added it to the armature and fleshed out the body. Then I added an acorn and sorted out its toes. Nearly finished, it was getting heavy, and I had to use a trolley to move it around. Lastly, I coloured the stainless and it was ready to be installed.
Making of the scale model
Scale model completion
Armature - start of full scale work
Filling out the head
Head with body
Nut in claws work
Fleshing out the body
Feet are taking shape
Feet are taking shape
Cleaning up the welds