Community News

Chainsaw sculptor adds myth & magic to new children’s play area

By 23 June 2017February 5th, 2021No Comments
Knucker sculptures at Weald & Downland Museum

In June, visitors to the Museum could see (and hear) Rob Beckinsale, chainsaw sculptor, working in the woods near our Downland Gridshell Building. Rob has created a series of sculptures from a felled tree as part of our new children’s play area, which will open this summer.

Speaking about the project, Rob said:

“I was invited to come and survey a tree at the Museum to see if it might be suitable for a sculpture. The tree has been deemed dangerous due to rot and had been felled some weeks earlier.

I met with members of the Museum team and its CEO, Martin, to discuss the project and what they envisioned. Martin explained that he had read about the Sussex legend of Knucker and hoped the main trunk could be carved into a dragon. Knucker lived in a pool near the village of Lyminster called the Knucker hole.

The word Knucker can be traced back to the Saxon word “Nicor” which means “A Water Monster” and can be found in the poem Beowulf. The tall tree stump was to become a room – it stands slightly apart from the new play area, and is now a separate curio for children to discover.

The first sculpture to be completed was carved from a tall tree stump. It was Martin’s idea to create a hidden room, with a chair inside, which children could discover from themselves when following the pathway. From the pathway only four square holes are discernible in the bark of the trunk, so it blends in wonderfully with this wooded area.

Children can also stand on the chair within and look out through the window, which offers a view along the main dragon’s back and down to its Knucker hole. There is also a fairy door beneath the seat.”

“The second sculpture is a bench and the design for this was a very collaborative project! A passing visitor suggested that the dragon might be female and could have a nest of three eggs – another passer by suggested carving a crack into one of the eggs, to suggest a hatching dragon.”

Bench dragon head and tail detail

“For the third sculpture, I converted the main felled trunk into a 30′ Knucker. The heartwood of the trunk was quite rotten but I can work around rotten wood as each sculpture emerges.”

Chainsaw carving a tree trunk into a Knucker dragon

Rob’s sculptures and sculpting are already proving a huge hit with visitors of all ages. These sculptures form a key part of a great new children’s play area, which will also contain a balance-beam trail, plus woven hazel play huts.

The play area will open to our younger visitors this summer – watch this space!