THREE statues will be unveiled in the Gwent Levels this year, the first stage in the creation of a new sculpture trail to honour South East Wales' rich maritime heritage.

Each figure will represent a key figure or profession in the region's coastal history.

Elinor Meloy, programme manager for the Living Levels Landscape Partnership (LLLP), said the sculpture trail would "celebrate the story of this hand-crafted landscape, by bringing to life some of the characters from the Levels’ history who have helped shape the landscape over thousands of years".

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Sculptures depicting a farm worker, a traditional fisherman, and the engineer who built the Severn Tunnel will all be completed in the coming months.

The ideas for the statues came from members of the local community. Members of the public are now being invited to submit ideas for another three sculptures, which will be unveiled in 2021.

The sculpture trail is one of 24 projects organised by the LLLP, which was set up in 2014 to celebrate the heritage and natural beauty of the Gwent Levels – a coastal area spanning 225 square kilometres from the River Wye, in the east, to the River Rhymney, in the west.

One of the sculptures, named The Engineer, was inspired by Victorian-era civil engineer Thomas A Walker, who was tasked with constructing the Severn Tunnel in the 1870s and 1880s.

The 2.4-metre figure, wearing a bowler hat and long overcoat, will look out over the Severn Estuary from Black Rock, near Portskewett.

Local sculptor Rubin Eynon will create The Engineer from corten steel – the same rusty-looking metal used by Sir Anthony Gormley for his famous sculpture, The Angel of the North.

"I think the Living Levels sculpture trail is a fantastic idea and will not only help to interpret the amazing history of the area, to people who live along the Gwent levels, but will hopefully draw visitors from further afield," Mr Eynon said.

He recently completed another project at the RSPB's Newport Wetlands visitor centre, for which he researched the local history from Neolithic footprints in the mud through to Newport's medieval ship and the city's later industrial history.

"There’s an incredible depth of history to the area so any project that brings that to the fore is fantastic," Mr Eynon said.

The Engineer will hold a small model of the tunnel entrance and the nearby village of Sudbrook, largely built by Mr Walker for the workers on the Severn Tunnel.

It is scheduled to be installed by February.

Another sculpture set to be unveiled next month is The Brinker, a weaved homage to the traditional landowners who maintained the reens (drainage canals) which are commonly found on Severnside.

The inspiration for this willow statue, Ms Meloy said, came from a series of local history and weaving workshops for local residents, held at the Magor Marsh nature reserve.

The Brinker will be sculpted by artists Sarah Hatton and Melanie Bastier, and will be installed at Magor Marsh.

The third and final Living Levels sculpture to be installed this year will depict a lave net fisherman – a nod to the small heritage fishery at Black Rock which still uses a centuries-old method to catch salmon.

Chainsaw sculptor Chris Wood will carve the 2.4-metre wooden sculpture at the Black Rock picnic site in the spring.

Each sculpture has been funded through either the Welsh Government's Rural Community Development Fund or the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

And in 2021, the LLLP wants to extend the sculpture trail westwards.

"We hope to commission at least a further three sculptures across the Gwent Levels landscape with the current idea being a figure at Goldcliffe, a figure on the east Cardiff Wentlooge Levels, and an additional location by the end of the programme in the summer of 2021," Ms Meloy said. "Ideas for the other commissions could be a Roman legionary, a medieval monk, [or] a Mesolithic hunter-gatherer; but we are very open to suggestions from the public, particularly of any iconic female characters from the Gwent Levels history."