Martin Orrom, former chairman
Forest of Dean Sculpture Trust
Forests have always been places of mystery for man.
Their hidden interiors have provided home for fugitives and hermits. They have also harboured wild creatures: wolf, bear, wild boar and deer. Sadly only the latter remains in Britain, but wild boar are now loose in the New Forest.
Besides providing shelter for man, the forests have yielded timber for building and burning, coal and iron, and food in the form of nuts, berries, mushrooms, venison and other game.
The mystery of forests and the seasons has inspired rituals and different types of tree have a different magic.
In recent times artists and writers have responded to the beauty of forests, and many fairy tales use the background of a forest to heighten the drama. Today the outlaws and beasts of prey have gone, and the greatest risk for the visitor is probably losing one’s way. Yet the rest of the mystery, diversity and seasonal renewal is still there ready to be discovered and inspire those who will look.
Since Forestry Commission forests are a national heritage, their foresters are happy to encourage visitors and would like to see them experiencing a deeper enjoyment than just fresh air and exercise. Such a wish is not wholly altruistic. There is a belief that if visitors go away with a greater understanding they will be more likely to conserve the forests for the future.
The question has been how to open visitors’ eyes to the hints of history, the sense of awe and magic; above all to the sense of beauty of a living and productive environment. Foresters and natural scientists are perhaps too prosaic, too close to the text books which trained them. Could it be that artists who come with no specialist knowledge would be able to inspire visitors with works of art which are both a direct response to the forest and to the very spot where the work is placed?