Piers Partridge – Ty’s Dad

When Ty died, I wanted to create something to remember him by. Something that felt as permanent and rooted as he had been in my life.. And then I remembered this idea I’d had several years ago of getting a wood carver in to create a trail of all the animals in the wood.

But I thought I’d have a go myself - and do it in stone. A peculiar confidence grew in me, despite never having carved in stone before. The plan was vague but I knew I wanted the Trail not to be too in-your- face and obvious. I liked the idea of children needing to be sharp eyed and aware if they were to find the animals. Because that’s the way nature is. You have to become as “Noticer.” And I wanted the carvings to seem old, a bit like fossils and cave paintings. I liked the idea that the Trail might educate children so that they could learn to tell the difference between a deer print and a fox print, a dog print and a badger print. These were the things we taught Ty, and he had learned (alongside his passion for gaming!) to love nature, to spend time in the woods and walk the paths with his dog. If you educate children to notice nature, they are more likely to become guardians of our woodlands in the future. And finally I wanted to use the stone that was lying around the wood so that the sculptures would look natural in their surroundings. And be less easy to spot.

First thing I carved was a single deer print – like a fossil. It was surprisingly difficult but a good place to start. Unknown to me, this was not a rock that any self respecting sculptor would ever touch. Its called “pennant”, it’s ridiculously hard, but also quite brittle. Chunks will sheer off if you get the wrong angle, and at first the woods rang to the shouts of “Bollocks”, and worse. After a while you get a feel for the material. The upside is that if the carvings will still be here if you were to come back to the woods in 2000 years. They might even provide a record of ‘animals that once lived in these parts.’ Next was the Dormouse. I built myself a wooden plinth, hauled a large rock out of the wood and got to work. It became obvious that this was going to be less about carving, and more about grinding and cutting. The stuff was incredibly tough. I trawled internet and found lots of helpful sculpting articles and videos. I bought myself a small angle grinder and a Dremmel drill, some dentists’ drill pieces off eBay, a stone chisel from the hardware store, a dust mask, goggles and gloves and got to work. I felt like a duck discovering water and I loved the process. To be banging away outside the shed on a sunny morning, covered in dust, is heaven.

Mostly I select rocks in the wood and bring them back to the plinth. I’m beginning to have the courage to carve some of the bigger rocks in situ. First of these has been the badger. Scary as everyone can witness the often haphazard evolution of the sculpture.

Luck was also on my side. Firstly Phil Carter, the father of Sam, one of Ty’s best mates, turned up one day and offered to give me a hand pulling the Trail together. I think he imagined he‘d be hauling rocks and digging holes, but I found him a stone and some tools and suggested he have a go with deer prints. He took to carving like he’d done it his whole life and produced the most immaculate set of deer prints that walkers constantly confuse with fossils. Perfect. And to have a mate to share triumphs, disasters and morning coffee with has made the whole process even more fun. Secondly, one of my Table Tennis mates, Kate Lilley, offered to do this Website. I love it. She’s done the most beautiful job and we’ve had a lot of laughs along the way.

Over coming years we’ll go on adding animals to the Trail. New red dots will appear on the map and we hope to hold regular events involving Storytelling and music. Sign up to the Newsletter if you want to be sure of knowing what’s new and what’s on.

Phil Carter

My wife, Julie and I, moved to Nailsea in 1990 with our two boys, Adam and Sam. We’re music fans and soon found ourselves at a Pindrop Gig. Then, our son Sam became great friends with Ty: they went to the same school, played rugby together and hung out together. When I heard that Piers and Fiona were going to build the Sculpture Trail in Ty's memory, then I volunteered to help. I thought I'd be making the coffee, carting materials around and generally helping out, but Piers immediately had me doing the actual carving itself. (He probably knew I made rubbish coffee).

Over the time that we have been creating the carvings and working on the Trail, it has become for me all the things a great hobby can bring you. It's exciting and risky; it's absorbing and frustrating; it gives me time to think, yet lets me lose myself in something else; it’s about friendship and companionship; and it’s incredibly dusty and dirty at times!

And at the end, there's great personal satisfaction in creating something that we love and which we trust others will equally enjoy, in memory of Sam's great friend, Ty.

Woodland Trust - Plant Trees

Ty Sculpture Trail

Towerhouse Woods,
Towerhouse Lane,
North Somerset. 
BS48 1JR

Links to sites we love

» Woodland Trust
» Nature Detectives
» Bristol Forest School
» Bristol Zoo