St Aidan’s School in Teams, Gateshead asked Sylvan Skills to help develop their outdoor area. It has been transformed into different zones, including a fire pit, a large castle surrounding a central tree, as well as smaller child-sized spaces for creative play such as tunnels and playhouses.

Being twinned with a school in Zhongshan in Guangdong province, Southern China, St Aidan’s School wished to dedicate a corner of the grounds to this special connection. Sylvan Skills was asked to create a Chinese dragon which will later be surrounded by blue pebbles to represent water.

The planning and creation of the sculpture involved the artistic skills of John Rutherford of Fairley Forge. He built the iron frame of the dragon which is equipped with an impressive set of teeth and beautifully decorated claws.

Photos by Paul Plews

The dragon’s body was then brought to life on site with curly yellow and orange willow to add detail, bright orange and red basket willow was used for highlighting the spines on its back. Sylvan Skills’ willow weavers initially worked on the lower sections of the dragon whilst it was resting on a bench. After it was cemented into the ground the main part of the body and the head were filled in.

Photos by Paul Plews

In addition to the iron-clawed dragon Sylvan Skills was asked to build a large living willow structure to connect various play areas and offer a green space for the children to play in. We thus created a dragon-shaped tunnel with a very long tail and small bat-like wings. This dragon has fused glass eyes which were made by Sam Todd of Bluebell Glass. Furthermore, we installed hazel screening around the play area and some mud kitchens.

Redeveloping your Outdoor Area

Sylvan Skills is looking forward to returning to the school in the summer term to introduce the children to willow weaving. Their items will then enhance the existing structures and the learnt skills allow them to express themselves creatively in the future.

If you would like to consider purchasing willow sculptures to enhance your garden, country park, school or community project please get in touch. There is normally a lead-in time of about six weeks to develop ideas, create structures and prepare the materials.

Willow sculptures will enhance your outdoor area space providing a feeling of centredness. You may appreciate the care which has gone into their creation by local artists making a unique commission meant to last.