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Friday 12 June 2015

Large wooden outdoor sculptures at Lake Vyrnwy and Bala in Wales

 On a recent trip to Wales, I visited Lake Vyrnwy. The lake is actually a reservoir, with a stone dam built in the 1880s holding back the waters...

 and a very striking Gothic-revival 'straining tower', which filters the waters before they are pumped off to supply Liverpool and Merseyside.

The area around the reservoir is now a bird reserve, partly managed by the RSPB. At one end of the lake, overlooked by the dam,  is an interesting sculpture trail showing large wooden artworks by artists from around the world.

Here's one called 'Water is life' by Angela Polglaze from Australia:

I also liked this more abstract form; 'Obelisk' by the Norwegian artist Nils Haukeland well as 'The Ark of Llanwddyn' by the Welsh artist Irene Brown (Llanwddyn is the name of the village submerged by the waters when the reservoir was built)

...and 'Cupboard' by Rosemary Terry, also from Wales.

Some of the sculptures are showing signs of the deterioration that you would expect after twelve or more years of Welsh weather acting on them, but many were still in pretty good shape.

After looking around, we went off to find the tallest tree in England and Wales, which was marked as growing on the side of the lake. We were four years too late! The Douglas fir, which was once 63.7m (208.9ft) high, was badly damaged in a storm and had to be felled. However, the chainsaw carver Simon O'Rourke has sculpted the remaining 50-foot stump into a huge reaching hand, which is situated in a beautiful spot near a small waterfall.

On the other side of the lake were more huge wooden artworks. These picnic benches are huge! They were the scene for a highlight of the trip; feeding chaffinches peanuts from my hand.

Simon O'Rourke also carved some very nice sculptures at the camping site that we stayed at;
Pen y bont, on the outskirts of the small town of Bala. They represent figures from the ancient Welsh tales called the Mabinogion. Apparently he carved them all (the image below shows about half the total number) in about 5 days.

This is Taliesin, the poet and seer:

This is the giant Tegid Foel, who was supposed to have lived on an island in the middle of Lake Bala (which is called Llyn Tegid in Welsh):

This is Blodeuedd, who was created from the flowers of meadowsweet, broom and oak by Math and the sorceror Gwydion:


  1. How lovely to see these - especially like the cupboard and the hand reaching skyward

  2. Glad you like them. It's a shame that you can't get the feel for the setting from just photos; especially the reaching hand, which is in such a beautiful spot. It probably helped that it wasn't raining too!

  3. I saw the hand this weekend it is amazing

  4. Fabulous, great photos, thanks for writing the blog.

  5. It's a pleasure; thanks for writing your comment!

  6. We stayed at Lake Bala and they look better in the flesh. Totally at home in their setting.