Somerset’s iconic Willow Man sculpture could be revived after funding boost

AN iconic Somerset statue could be revived after a funding boost.

The Willow Man, which stands alongside the M5 near Bridgwater, has fallen into disrepair in recent years due to funding cutbacks.

Now, a plan to revive the sculpture has received a funding boost from National Highways, the company responsible for England’s motorways and major A roads.

The Willow Man, 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, was created by artist Serena De la Hay and unveiled in 2000.

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 now 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.

The Willow Man has fallen into disrepair in recent years. Picture: Somerset Council

The Willow Man has fallen into disrepair in recent years. Picture: Somerset Council

Lead member for transport and digital at the council, 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.”

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