Spirit of the Hornbeam at Raveningham

Don’t forget to visit the new Nutmeg installation Spirit of the Hornbeam at Waveney Valley Sculpture Trail
The Raveningham Centre, Beccles Road,
Raveningham, Norfolk, NR1 4 6NU
Friday 1 8th Aug – Sunday 1 7th Sept 201 7
Open Daily 1 0 – 5pm
Adults £5, W&BA Members £4, under 1 8s free.
cinnamongallery@gmail.com/ 01 508 548406



“For the 2016 Sculpture Trail I had started working on the idea of tree spirits – dryads in Classical mythology – and I wanted to develop this theme in 2017. The words “limb” and “trunk” are often applied to parts of trees, as if they mirrored human beings.

Faces, hands, feet could be attached to tree trunks and branches. They would be a mixture of the playful and the slightly sinister, made from plaster, muslin, papier-maché, lichen, moss, leaves – materials sourced on site at Raveningham.

I also planned to make some hanging, flying birds that would respond to the breeze, made from sturdy frameworks of my own willow, decorated with dried plants I grow and collect.

When I visited the site for the first work party in the spring, a start had been made on pruning and clearing and I noticed some of the trees were weeping copiously from the cuts. I consulted a tree-surgeon friend who explained that they were hornbeams. There is such a strong flow of sap in them that they must only be cut in the winter. (I later read that if you put your ear to a hornbeam trunk in spring you can hear the sap rising. Must try it next year.)
So on my next visit I went round the garden and meadow trying to identify the trees, recognising my ignorance, and noticing the hornbeams. I had thought they were beeches – the leaves are very similar, but the trees are much smaller and more delicate. I’d only noticed them in woodland before, as ancient coppices. Some of the hornbeams at Raveningham come from large coppiced bases and must be quite old. I chose a small perfect hornbeam to be the focus for my work.

And then disaster struck; I fell and broke my wrist in May. My swollen fingers peeped out from a plaster cast for six weeks, like the hand I had planned to make, growing out of a branch. My limb was unrecognisable and helpless. Over the following weeks I worked at recovering the use of my hand and arm, and my bruised confidence. I am left handed and that was the wrist I broke. My right hand had to learn how to use scissors, cut, and model. I learnt to write – slowly and in a weird gothic style, but some tasks were just too hard. As it began to recover, my left hand started to join in and take over, and inevitably overdid it. In desperation I threw myself into making, without planning as I usually do, and several pieces went into the bin before my ideas began to take shape.

Strangely, my homeopath sent me a Bach flower remedy – Hornbeam – which turned out to be “for one who doubts strength to face or to cope, but usually accomplishes; for convalescents doubting the strength to recover.” I hadn’t told her about my hornbeam tree.

The hand never materialised. The association was too painful..”