Dorset Art Weeks Is Here!

Venue 94

The trail takes about 45 minutes to walk – but allow more time for wildlife and sculpture sightings!

The wild flowers are gorgeous (orchids just coming) and the warblers are still filling the reed beds with song. Please ask for a map and sculpture notes inside the RSPB centre, where there are also more sculptures and cards.

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During the next two weeks Sarah will be there on Fridays, Saturdays & Sundays from midday to 4pm, working on The Radipole Stone.

Thanks to Geoffrey Thomas and Tony Taylor for some of the photos, and to ELizabeth Thomas for all the prose quotes.

And so I have chipped these words, chiselled, polished and honed my prose as I have tried to match the sculptor’s art – to interpret without destroying, to imagine without becoming over-fanciful.

The Radipole Stone

A joint project between  The RSPB at Radipole Lake and sculptor Sarah Gilpin, supported by The Heritage Lottery Fund.

A hunk of basebed stone, the best quality carving stone from Portland, brought by a forklift to sit beside the footpath and embedded in the soil. Over 200 people put mallet to chisel to stone.

Now nearing completion 14 months after it arrived by the side of the public footpath… for more photos and details…



I walked on to the North hide to find the sculpture situated the farthest from the Centre – a puffin chiselled from Portland stone. ….   tucking its head shyly downwards as though hiding its amazing bill from prying eyes.

This puffin shelters in a corner, the corner itself a beautiful piece of roache stone. For me, this piece is gentle and quiet, inviting introspection, a looking within to our connection with earth’s creatures.



Then I saw a raven’s wing raised in soaring flight – a sculpture entitled ‘Wedge’ which indeed it was – a wedge of cedar of Lebanon but holding out the possibility to be so many other things. The charred surface felt as warm to my touch as dying embers, catching and absorbing the gentle heat of the setting sun.

This is the wedge that was removed from one side of the main trunk prior to sawing through from the other side. The cut sides come together in a sharp edge, which, angled into the sky, is dramatic and energetic. The broader outside wavy edge contrasts with this and has been treated to maintain the wonderful colour patterns, also differentiating from the charred surfaces. Balanced on the fence post, the wedge floats amongst the reeds pointing to the heavens, moving the eye and the energy away and into the richness and variety of nature.



A few yards further down the path I found ‘Ring’, a form created from English walnut with its centre a window to the marshes, concentrating greenness and growth as if seen through a telescope.

The rotting centre created naturally beautiful shapes, introducing the space within, and allowing the formation of a ring.  A universal symbol of wholeness, the ring has been charred using a blowtorch, resulting in wonderful radial cracks and a mosaic texture. The edges have been treated to maintain the colour patterns underneath the bark, and are strongly distinct from the charred surface. In association with Wedge, the effect of each simple shape becomes more apparent.


Ash heart – Bee home

Amongst the whispering reeds stood a piece of ash tree split in three to reveal dark cavities where bees had once made their home. Like a coven of witches, the three huddled in a semi-circle – dead wood brought alive by the sculptor’s art.

If you look closely at the highest segment, you can see the channels where the bees used to go in and out of the tree, a multi-entranced home. The big saw marks in the bark at the top are those of the chainsaws that felled the tree.  The stepped rise in height suggests a kind of honouring, a raising to the heavens. …  my homage to the magic of tree and bee.



…a Cetti’s warbler flung its liquid notes across the reed-bed where, poised above still waters, I came across Stonespirit, the enigmatic form of another petroglyph. I saw a face as wise and old as the rock from which it had been hewn, a face like an ancient Egyptian’s, mysterious, other-worldly.

When I saw this stone, I wanted to balance it upright, to incorporate the drill marks left from the quarrying that run down one side, and to work with the eye I had seen in the upper centre. I wanted to leave the natural surfaces that were revealed as it split and fractured on removal from the rock bed and saw the light of day for the first time for 150 million years.


Red Island Torso

On the small island seen through the viewing window had been placed ‘Red Island Torso’, a scarlet-stained geometric form which appeared to shout ‘look at me’! A greater contrast to all the other artworks on display could not be conceived – it was strident, startling, almost primitive

Carved using a chain saw from a sweet chestnut trunk, and coloured using a stain harmless to animals and plants, this cubist figure is a focus within the landscape, a gesture of joyful exuberance and excitement at the wonderful world around it. Colourful and fun, yet standing strong and solid in the centre of the lake, a child at home amongst the white swans.



Nearby (to Cassandra), in total contrast, there stood exuberant ‘Air-borne’ – a sturdy chunk of English ash which has been transformed into a winged shape, full of light and shadow.

The surfaces have been sanded to show the grain on one side and to bring out the chainsaw marks on the other. Lime wax brings a pale finish to the surfaces, and the outside is also treated to keep the contrasting bark. Reminiscent of a heart or wings, or even sails, this piece expresses energy, movement and a sense of freedom.

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…a tiny brightly-glistening object made from glass and lead in each of these sculptures, echoing memories of a colourful past, 150 million years ago before the creatures became petrified.

These sculptures are made using stone from the Fancy Beach Whitbed on the Isle of Portland, a particular quarry and a particular layer of portland stone characterised by these densely packed shells. Portland is only four miles long by one and a half wide, yet each quarry can yield strikingly different stone even from the same geological layer. Imagine a sheltered cove, depression or ridge which favoured these species – trace the memory of the swirl and flow of the sea around them…