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Photo: Lions at Noah's Ark Zoo Farm, Wraxall
Pride in our green space
The pride of Lions Green is a wood carving commissioned by Nailsea Town Council.
The council secured funding from the Welcome Back Fund to create a carved seating area on the grass area off Stockway South.
The carving shows a lion adorned by a timber mane and on an adjoining piece two small lion cubs.
At the end of last year, a diseased horse chestnut tree on Lions Green had to be felled for safety reasons.
Nailsea Town Council secured grant funding to create a tree sculpture, bringing new life to the fallen stump.
A week before the carving was due to begin, Storm Eunice took down another large tree on the green, so the council worked with the tree sculptor to incorporate this into the design.
Tree carver Gary Orange was chosen to do the work as Andy O’Neill the village green woodland sculptor was booked on another job.
Gary came with an incredible back story.
In 2007 he was driving to work on a gas pipeline construction contract, to cut down trees and bushes to clear the land, when his car was struck by a fallen, fully grown sycamore tree.
Trapped inside his car and badly injured he had to be cut out of his Land Rover by firefighters.
The accident had fractured his skull and he needed emergency surgery to have a metal plate inserted.
Time in hospital and ongoing appointments became the new normal as Gary had to learn to live with his injuries alongside PTSD and fatigue.
It was during his rehabilitation Gary went from tree cutter to tree carver following in his grandfather’s footsteps.
Gary said: " I know from experience some trees are dangerous and need to be felled, like the one that fell on me. I won't carve living trees; I will only work on fallen or standing dead trees - it's my passion to breathe new life into the deadwood.
"My carving has taken me across the UK, Pennsylvania USA, and a beach in New Zealand.
“I work for the National Trust, Forestry Commission, county councils and individuals.
A council spokesman said: "We are looking forward to seeing people use the new benches and feel sure these will be something that our residents will enjoy.
“Gary has been fantastic to work with and we wish him all the best."
The intention is this summer to plant more trees.
Our Lions legacy
Nailsea Town Council commissioned chainsaw sculptor Gary Orange to turn what was left of the diseased tree on Lions Green into a piece of street art.
The funds for this work have come from The Welcome Back Fund which is providing councils across England a share of £56 million from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).
Its aim is to support the safe return to high streets and help build back better from the pandemic.
Chainsaw carving is an art form which has grown massively since it crossed the Atlantic from the USA.
As well as outdoor works of art is can provide seating areas or historical memorials.
The oak tree on the village green on the High Street had stood on the village green since 1897 was the first to get this treatment.
It was cut down in 2019 and left as a ‘monolith’ after safety checks revealed it too was rotten.
An idea to turn the trunk into a sculpture representing Nailsea was put forward and the talents of woodcarver Andy O’Neill secured.
Andy, 50, from Yate, spent many days turning the tree remains into a British wildlife sculpture.
Nailsea People has a page devoted to this work HERE.
Now it is Gary's turn and it was his choice to use the Lion King theme to match the name of a park which also houses a large bench commissioned by the local Lions Club.
He is due to finish mid-March.
The Lions and the town council installed the big bench and a new pathway back in 2018 and the project was helped with a generous donation from councillor Phil Barclay who sadly has since died.