Three large chairs carved with the artwork of local schoolchildren have been donated to a town park thanks to a National Highways improvement scheme.
A small number of trees had to be felled as part of the £24 million scheme at the A45/A6 Chowns Mill roundabout in Northamptonshire.
To ensure the trees were not lost to the community, three sections of trunk from an oak tree have been turned into three ornate chairs. One has a giant acorn seat, the second a conker base and the third a hazelnut.
Children from three schools in nearby Higham Ferrers were invited to come up with some nature-themed designs to decorate the large leaves which make up the backs of the chairs – with around 5ft by 3ft space to cover.
Taking part were Henry Chichele Primary, Higham Ferrers Junior and Higham Ferrers Nursery and Infant schools. Some 100 entries were received with Town Mayor Councillor Tina Reavey and woodcarver Carrie Yuen having the difficult job of choosing the 30 winning designs to be carved into the chairs.
The finished products have been installed at Nightingale Way park in Higham Ferrers and were officially unveiled by the Mayor on Monday (22 November) with some of the children on hand to see their works first-hand.
National Highways Construction Assurance Manager, Dermot Doherty, said: “The children have clearly worked really hard on their designs and the end result is incredible. The chairs look fantastic and can now be enjoyed by local people for many years to come.
“We only remove trees when absolutely necessary and try to redress the balance by including extensive tree planting in our plans. Around 2,000 trees are being planted in and around the Chowns Mill roundabout as part of the improvements.
“But we do appreciate that the trees are important to people so we are delighted to ensure they have a legacy in the community.”
Mayor Councillor Reavey said: “I couldn’t be more thrilled and honoured to have unveiled the carved chairs. They have been skilfully crafted by Carrie, who has taken the children’s designs and worked them so beautifully into the backs of the chairs. It wasn’t easy for us to select the winning designs with so many creative entries to choose from. All the children who took part in the competition are to be congratulated.
“I’m grateful to those who have worked so hard on the project team to bring the timber from the felled oak back to a site close to its original home. These magnificent giant chairs are going to be enjoyed by many future generations.”
Higham Ferrers Junior School headteacher, Vicky Bull, said: “In what has been an unsettled time for the children, this was a lovely inspiring project. It is wonderful that their creativity is part of the community and can be shared by all. We are very proud of the children.”
Scott Dainty, headteacher at Henry Chichele Primary School, said: “We are very pleased to be part of this project which allowed our pupils to get involved with the community developments. The designs look great and our children are incredibly proud to see their work on display and so they should be!”
Higham Ferrers Nursery and Infant School headteacher, Linda Ward, added: “This has been a great project for the children to take part in and one that continues to build on their love for their local environment. We are very proud of all the children and know that they will enjoy sitting on the chairs that bear the pictures they created for many years to come.”
Simon Wiggins, Senior Contract Manager at contractors Ground Control who sponsored the artworks, said: “Ground Control cares for our environment and champions supporting local communities, which is why we were happy to sponsor the artwork of the chairs. We believe firmly in actively engaging children in nature, especially where they can make such a positive impact. The artwork is outstanding! We're proud to be part of such a wonderful project.”
Each of the schools was also given a piece of carved art to display as a thank you for taking part in the competition. These included an owl, a squirrel and a table and chairs.
Chowns Mill roundabout, where the A45 is crossed by the A6, is being redesigned to tackle significant congestion issues. The junction is being redesigned as a half hamburger layout with a new link road connecting the A6 South and A5028 with the existing roundabout. All approaches are also being widened to provide extra lanes and capacity.