New life on Lions Green - the story of a tree carver

Wellspring Nailsea

Wellspring Nailsea - Credit: Wellspring Nailsea

Nailsea Town Council secured funding from the Welcome Back Fund to create a carved seating area on ‘Lions Green’.

The carving, when finished, will show a Lion and its cubs. The Council will also be planting more trees on the green for its residents to enjoy.

At the end of last year, a diseased horse chestnut tree on Lions Green had to be felled for safety reasons. Nailsea Town Council secured grant funding to create a tree sculpture, bringing new life to the fallen tree.

A week before the carving was due to begin, Storm Eunice took down another large tree on the green, so the council worked with the tree sculptor to incorporate this into the design.

Tree sculptor, Gary Orange, was selected by the council to carry out the carving. As well as being a talented artist he also has an incredible story to tell of his journey to become a tree sculptor.

In 2007 Gary was driving to work on a gas pipeline construction contract, to cut down trees and bushes to clear the land, when his car was struck by a fallen, fully grown, Sycamore Tree.

Trapped inside his car and badly injured he had to be cut out of his Land Rover by a firefighter. The accident had fractured his skull requiring emergency surgery to have a metal plate inserted.

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Time in hospital and ongoing appointments became the new normal as Gary had to learn to live with his injuries alongside PTSD and fatigue.

It was then, as part of his rehabilitation, Gary went from tree cutter to tree carver. The tree had been a wake-up call and reset his trajectory.

Gary found enjoyment and healing in his tree carving and was soon entering competitions and turning this from a hobby into a business. After Gary discovered that tree carving was in his blood, learning his own grandfather had done it too.

After his accident Gary met a fellow carver who carved animals from diseased fallen trees. When he told him the story of his accident, he discovered the man he was talking to had carved the tree that had changed his life.

Gary said: "I know from experience some trees are dangerous and need to be felled, like the one that fell on me.

"I won't carve living trees; I will only work on fallen or standing dead trees - it's my passion to breathe new life into the deadwood.”

"My carving has taken me across the UK, Pennsylvania USA, and a beach in New Zealand. I work for the National Trust, Forestry Commission, County Councils, and undertake private work"

A spokesperson for the Council said: "We are looking forward to seeing people use the new benches and feel sure these will be something that our residents will enjoy. Gary has been fantastic to work with and we wish him all the best."