THERE’S a new landmark on the Chepstow skyline – an intricately-carved “totem tree” fashioned from the remains of two residents’ storm-damaged redwood.

Artist and tree surgeon Alex Vardy-Meers spent two weeks designing and carving a woodland scene into the tree, complete with carvings of an owl, a woodpecker, a fox, a rabbit and two squirrels.

The sculpture was commissioned by Larkfield Park resident Roger Shewell, who together with neighbour Patricia Fernon wanted to preserve the tree which used to stand magnificently behind their homes but has, in recent years, been damaged by strong winds and posed a safety risk to nearby homes.

“Roger felt that rather than completely felling the tree, it was appropriate to provide the local community of Larkfield Park [with] a unique landmark,” Ms Fernon said.

The sculpture has a fairy-tale feel to it, with a mysterious trapdoor, as well as mushrooms and hedgehogs carved into the trunk’s base for children to climb over and play on.

For Mr Vardy-Meers, 31, sculptures like the Chepstow totem tree are an opportunity to marry his passion for art and his professional experience as a tree surgeon.

After studying for a degree in fine art, Mr Vardy-Meers worked for several community improvement organisations in London, and ventured into sculpting.

And through his eight years’ experience as a tree surgeon, he began to use the tools of the trade – chainsaws and grinders – to carve statues, sculptures, and furniture out of felled trees.

The Larkfield Park tree was damaged badly by high winds and had required safety work in 2005, 2011, and 2018. When one of the safety cables broke last year, Monmouthshire County Council gave permission for the tree to be felled.

Less than a third of the trunk remained, and it was with this that Mr Vardy-Meers got to work.

“It’s nice to keep something there for the community,” Mr Vardy-Meers said. “I’m more of a surrealist sculptor but for this they wanted something with animals.

“I also designed and built a bench for Patricia [out of the wood].”

Ms Fernon said the totem tree had already attracted a lot of interest locally, and she encouraged people to come and see this unique piece of art.

“The public are more than welcome to bring family and friends to take photos and view these amazing pieces of work that Alex has crafted,” She said. “Children are invited to sit on the base of the tree and have photos taken or just play.”