In 2018 we’re launching a campaign to secure the future of the iconic M5 willow man who strides alongside the motorway near junction 23 at Bridgwater. Created by artist Serena de la Hey in 2000 as part of The Year of the Artist the willow man was conceived as a temporary structure and now nearly two decades on, it needs a complete rebuild as well as a fund for future maintenance.
For us, The Willow Man is a great West Country landmark, a symbol of arrival for both residents and holiday makers and if he is allowed to simply deteriorate and disappear it’d be huge loss to our landscape. We couldn’t bring the Willow Man to the festival so the next best thing was to ask Serena to make something for the fest to help raise awareness about the Willow Man’s plight.
Toby Buckland says, “When I read the Willow Man was under threat I picked up the phone and asked Serena how we could help. Several meetings and a lot of coffee later, a plan was hatched and we commissioned Serena to build a willow sculpture for my 2018 Garden and Harvest Festivals. We couldn’t bring the Willow Man to the festivals so this was the next best thing to raise awareness of his plight.”
Serena is creating a huge ‘Willow Wonder’ at the Garden Festival with help from artist Stefan Jennings and Toby himself, which will be located close to the Castle driveway near the entrance. Visitors will be able to add their own embellishments and support the fundraising.
Serena says, “Willow is an ephemeral material, and no-one realised The Willow Man would become a cherished part of the landscape – least of all me – so we have to do something soon or he will be lost.”
In a nod to the Willow Man’s roadside location, the festival sculpture – known as ‘The Wonder’ – will be located as a welcome to visitors near the Garden Festival entrance at Powderham Castle, in the village of Kenton near Exeter before it is moved to Forde Abbey for Toby’s Harvest Festival in September.
Toby says, “For the millions of holiday-makers who visit the West Country The Willow Man is a sign they’ve arrived! For me he’s a symbol I’m nearly of home. If he did disappear it’d be huge loss to our landscape and I’m only too happy to help give him a future.’
You can see The Wonder and meet Serena de la Hey at Toby’s Garden Festival on 27th and 28th April when she will be speaking to festival goers and encouraging visitors to add their own willow embellishments to support the fundraising. For more information, www.serenadelahey.com