Willow Man receives study funding boost as public engagement starts
A plan to revive the once-iconic Willow Man sculpture has received a funding boost from National Highways, the company responsible for England’s motorways and major A roads.
Willow Man, close to Bridgwater, Junction 23 M5 has deteriorated in recent years and is now barely recognisable.
Created by artist Serena De la Hay and unveiled in 2000, the sculpture was commissioned by South West Arts to mark the millennium and celebrates the role of willow in the ecology and craft tradition of the Somerset Levels.
Somerset Council has been granted £35,000 of funding from National Highways’ Designated Funding programme for an initial feasibility looking at the possibility of repairing/enhancing and relocating the Willow Man.
A future scheme could see the sculpture rebuilt using more robust materials.
The funding will cover a range of activities including engagement, initial designs and costings, artists impressions, as well as searches and surveys covering land ownership and topography to identify potential sites.
The Council is asking people for their views and is launching an online engagement page where you can have your say.
It will also be liaising with local parish councils and other key stakeholders over the coming weeks to gather their views.
Have your say here: Willow Man feasibility study.
Somerset Council’s Lead Member for Transport and Digital, Councillor Mike Rigby said:
We’re really pleased National Highways have given us this money to explore the possibilities. Willow Man has been a prominent feature for Somerset and it is sad the sculpture is in such a state of disrepair.
But we need to be clear that any potential project looking to repair, enhance or relocate Willow Man would be subject to another significant funding bid, or bids – it unfortunately is not a spending priority at this point.
Somerset Council is not in a position to commit any funds to the project but we will be looking to explore all future funding options following the engagement and design work.
Jonathan Hill, National Highways’ Route Manager, said:
At National Highways, our work goes beyond operating, maintaining and improving roads. We’re investing in the environment and communities surrounding our network, as well as the people travelling and working on it.
We’re providing initial funding to Somerset Council to support their aspirations to realise a project to restore the iconic structure alongside the M5 – a glowing example of how this funding can make life better for communities living and working near our roads.
We hope that, by providing the funding to kick-start this project, the council will be able to explore third party funding opportunities to restore or replace this South West landmark.