Higham Ferrers 'Three Oak' transformed with help from pupils into nutty chairs

A campaign to save the ancient 'Three Oak' tree failed as construction work undermined its roots

By Alison Bagley
Wednesday, 24th November 2021, 11:13 am
Updated Wednesday, 24th November 2021, 11:14 am
Mayor Cllr Tina Reavey with some of the pupils and their winning designs watched by representatives from National Highways, Ground Control and the local community

The promise by National Highways to transform a ancient Higham Ferrers landmark tree into a permanent reminder for future generations has been fulfilled with the unveiling of three wooden chairs.

Children from three nearby Higham schools had been asked for their nature-themed designs for the backs of the timber seats made from the trunk of the much-loved 'Three Oak'. Three large chairs carved with the artwork of pupils have been donated to a town park by National Highways - responsible for the £24m Chowns Mill junction improvement scheme.

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.

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The three chairs with the children’s designs are now in place for all to enjoy

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.”

Taking part were Henry Chichele Primary, Higham Ferrers Junior and Higham Ferrers Nursery and Infant schools. Some 100 entries were received with Higham Town Mayor Tina Reavey and woodcarver Carrie Yuen having the difficult job of choosing the 30 winning designs to be carved into the backs of the chairs.

The finished products have been installed at Nightingale Way park in Higham Ferrers and were officially unveiled by the Mayor with some of the children on hand to see their works first-hand.

Cllr 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.”

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.

Simon Wiggins, senior contract manager at contractors Ground Control which 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.”