A tree carving celebrating Altrincham’s industrial heritage has been unveiled in the town centre, the first step in the creation of a new ‘Welcoming Gateway’ to Altrincham.
We reported in September how not-for-profit organisation Our Altrincham was coordinating an ambitious project to revamp the patch of land bordering Stamford New Road, Barrington Road and Stamford Street.
Following funding from a Trafford Partnership Voluntary Sector Grant – awarded when members of the public voted overwhelmingly to support the project – work began last week on transforming the green space from “dark and intimidating” to “lighter, brighter and more welcoming”.
The first of three overgrown plane trees was cut back and the resulting stump turned into an eye-catching carving – complete with Altrincham Clock Tower, cogs and a train emerging from a tunnel – by local tree sculptor Andy Burgess (pictured alongside his creation, above).
Sarah Walmsley, from Our Altrincham, explained the need to remove the tree.
She said: “The issue with the tree is that it’s a London plane tree – it’s enormous and was planted in the wrong place. If it had been in the middle of the site it would have been fine and we wouldn’t have done anything to it, but the fact is it was planted on the corner of the site and was encroaching on the highway.
Watch some video from the site of the new gateway:
“There were two large branches that Trafford Council’s tree service were going to have to take off, and frankly if they’d done that it would have just looked like a horrible butchered tree, and it would have regrown anyway.
“If they were going to butcher it then we thought we may as well have it cut down to a stump and actually have it carved into something that’s going to have lasting significance.”
Also collaborating on the project is local arts charity, Art With A Heart.
Its founder, Karen Wroe, said the original idea for the space had come from the North West in Bloom judges.
As well as the tree carving, there are plans for a timeline of Altrincham’s heritage – from 1290 to the present day – a living ‘Welcome to Altrincham’ sign, new benches and the planting of three new, smaller trees.
“The idea is that it becomes not just a green space but a destination space,” said Wroe. “One that will attract people into Altrincham because it becomes a talking point.”
Walmsley said there was still “lots of funding” to find for the completion of the project.
Although feedback had been overwhelming positive for the tree carving so far, she understood why some people weren’t going to like it.
“Any space like this in the town centre is going to be controversial,” she added, “you’re never going to please everybody, and that’s why we spent considerable time and effort on consultation, inviting people to come in, see the plans and give people their considered opinions.”
Tree sculptor Burgess, who has been a full-time tree sculptor for eight years, has completed numerous other public and private commissions around Altrincham. He was even commissioned by Dame Judi Dench to create a carving of a squirrel for her partner as a surprise birthday present.
“As a local lad I wanted to do a really good job,” he said. “I live in Mobberley now, but I grew up in Hale, and this is the gateway to the town.
“It was a large tree and I wanted to make sure the finished carving was still imposing while not scrimping on the detail. I’m very happy with the finished result.”