The real-life giant hidden in the Welsh woods


YOU just call on me brother when you need a hand, we all need somebody to lean on. It’s become the anthem for the Covid era – and there’s no bigger hand than the Giant Hand Of Vyrnwy.

The remnants of the UK’s tallest tree, felled after being damaged in a storm, have been transformed into something remarkable.

A 50-foot stump was the only part left standing after the 124-year-old Douglas Fir was axed at the Lake Vyrnwy estate in Powys.

It had stood at 209 foot, taller than a 20-storey building, and was once regarded as the UK’s joint highest.

But it had become a safety hazard. The tree was leaning to one side, and there were two substantial cracks on opposite sides of the main stem.

There was no choice but to fell it.

Now, it has become a magical work of art. From wrist to finger tip, the giant hand measures fully seven foot.

It was carved in March 2011 by Wrexham artist Simon O’Rourke, who has won international acclaim for his work.

Simon didn’t have to look too far for a reference point. He modelled the sculpture on his own hand, and shaped it with a chainsaw.

He said the hand carving was in an area of the estate known as The Giants of Vyrnwy, and the location had inspired him.

Scaffolding had to be erected around the trunk as Simon took a week to complete the project with the blessing of the authorities.

And although travel across the UK is currently curtailed by the Covid lockdown, it’s one to put on your New Year ‘must visit’ resolutions.

“The Forestry Commission, who look after the area, decided that it would be a good idea to have a memorial to the tree and left a 50ft stem when they felled it,” said Simon at the time.

“They invited eight artists to tender for the job and I got it. My designs were chosen and I immediately got to work.

“It took two days to erect the scaffolding to make the tree safe to work on, then six days of intense work followed, using chainsaws and grinders.

“I needed to add two pieces for the thumb and the little finger as the tree wasn’t wide enough to form the whole hand.

“After completion, the sculpture was coated in Tung Oil, a natural plant-based oil safe for proximity to waterways.

“The client was really pleased with the result and said that it was a fitting reminder of the tree.

“There are a few tall Douglas firs growing in the Giants of Vyrnwy area and I was going on the giants theme,” he added.

“It’s a last attempt by the tree to reach the sky.”

“I loved working on the hand – it reminded me just how small we are compared to some of the living organisms on this planet.

“All in all, it was a humbling experience.”

Simon’s wonderful work is wide and varied, ranging from nature to fantasy, from owls to Game of Thrones dragons, and characters including Alien and Batman.

Access to the Vyrnwy Estate is currently restricted due to Covid lockdown, and travel into Wales from other parts of the UK is not allowed other than in exceptional circumstances.

To learn more about the Giant Hand head over to Simon’s excellent blog here and see his Instagram feed here.

For general tourism advice see www.visitmidwales.co.uk

Categories:UK Breaks, UncategorizedTags: , , , , , , , , ,

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