Bute Park play sculptures
Bute Park, a Grade I listed historical landscape in Cardiff, underwent a £5.6 million restoration project, supported by a £3.1 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). The project restored some important historic features, provided new facilities and helped tell the story of Bute Park. As part of the project, sculptural play features were commissioned to introduce young people to site specific ecological and historical themes and function as part of a discovery play trail through the park.
Bute Park is Cardiff’s premier park, located in the city centre, on the eastern bank of the river Taff and described as one of the largest urban parks in the country. The southern section of the park was laid out by Andrew Pettigrew, a significant gardener and horticulturalist, as part of the pleasure grounds of Cardiff Castle, which were gifted to the people of Cardiff in 1947, along with the Castle. The southern end of the park acts as a setting to the castle with views featuring a foreground of the mature Magnolia collection. The character of the wider park is dominated by the nineteenth century plantings of mature trees supplemented by the development of the Bute Park Arboretum. The former Castle pleasure grounds’ northern boundary was the walled garden, which was used for fruit and vegetable production for the Bute family estate. Further north in the park, are extensive playing fields and woodlands which form a green corridor from the heart of the city centre to its periphery.
Sculptor Tom Harvey was appointed to create five sculptural play features which can be climbed and explored in a variety of ways. All five sculptures are linked to different locations throughout the park, for example the otter and fish sculpture is next to the river, the ‘leaf bridge’ is near the footings of an earlier bridge over the River Taff and the hollowed out log with apple tree carvings is on the orchard lawn near the Education Centre.
There is also a ‘stag beetle’ in Old Man’s Wood, not far from the popular warthog-inspired landscape feature dubbed by some as ‘Pumba’. The final sculpture of a frog and fly, which is near the Summerhouse, was developed as part of a workshop with local school children. This last sculpture was actually carved from a fallen tree stump on site.
Tom said: “I work within the tradition of direct carving without the use of scale model and this process of discovery makes the creation of the sculptures all the more dynamic. Oak and other woods native to Britain are my preferred materials to carve as they are readily available and work better within the environment."
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