Art in Headington

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Storybook Tree, Bury Knowle Park (2005)

Storybook Tree

Storybook tree before carving


Thanks to Headington Action, in 2005 the trunk of a dead cedar tree in Bury Knowle Park (right) was turned into a sculpture. Boward Tree Surgery of Long Hanborough came up with the idea of using the dead trunk instead of removing it. The sculptor was Matt Cave (who is 2017 sculpted Aslan the lion from another dead tree in the park).

The above photograph was taken when it was newly created. The sculpture is much darker now.

Before the work was commissioned, a model of the proposed sculpture was put on display in Headington Co-op, Somerfield, and the John Radcliffe Hospital. Over 90% of responses from the public were extremely positive. The model was given to St Andrew’s Primary School.


It features characters from the books of the Headington authors J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis: the dragon Smaug fromThe Hobbit, Aslan the lion from The Chronicles of Narnia, and the horse from The Horse and His Boy.


The Storybook Tree won an Oxford Preservation Trust Environmental Award in 2007.

The work was sponsored by Oxford Brookes University, Oxford University Press, A.C. Nielsen, Knowles (Oxford) Ltd, Symm & Co, and WHM Consulting.

BBC South Television followed the progress of the work on the tree. The carving started on 26 April 2005 and took four weeks. The sculpture was unveiled by Graham Upton, the Vice-Chancellor of Oxford Brookes University, at a ceremony on Wednesday 25 May 2005:


On 31 May 2006 two seats, one with a carved serpent and one with a beaver, were added.

© Stephanie Jenkins


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