Martin Orrom, former chairman
Forest of Dean Sculpture Trust
The first sculpture trail which turned out to be a pilot for the Forest of Dean Project was a trail with a narrative in Exeter Forest, created by just one artist: Jamie McCullough.
Here he built and sculpted more than a dozen works, most of which demanded an active response from visitors. These included a maze, a narrow and curved suspension bridge which flexed as it was stepped on, a bridge which was vertical on a pivot and had to be walked down level to cross it, stepping stones down the middle of a stream, a vertical acorn cup which mysteriously always had acorns in it, a curving dark tunnel which led to a ladder up into a forester’s hut, a rose window made of branches hung in tall trees, and finally an open sided building with a stone fireplace where food was often left in stone niches.
It was a walk to appreciate for its challenges and for its moments when one just stood, stared and listened. Designed, therefore, for a contemplative public in family groups it rapidly became a popular success. Hundreds walked it every weekend and the fragility of some parts was shown up. The popularity was all the more surprising since no reporting was permitted despite offers from TV and colour magazines. Everyone learned of it by personal recommendation and roughly drawn maps passed from hand to hand.
Eventually, after two or three years it became just an adventure playground for it had been strengthened and altered to accommodate the numbers using it. In its heyday adult visitors said that it carried them back to a sense of wonderment they had not experienced since they were children.
The funding for this two year development, named
Beginner’s Way, came principally from South West Arts, the Carnegie United Kingdom Trust and the Dartington Trustees. Considerable help was given by the Forestry Commission.
The project came about through a contact between the Arts Council’s Alister Warman and Martin Orrom of the Forestry Commission. The Arts Council suggested that Jamie McCullough was looking for a forest to work in and the Commission agreed to help, provided the artist was prepared to interpret the forest for the public and not merely to place previously conceived sculpture in beautiful places.