Lucy Thornton-Reid, Fundraising Officer

Our 'Celebration Leaves' scheme was launched last year. Engraved copper leaves hang from three oak sculptures in the wildlife garden at Ferry Meadows. You can purchase a leaf to have engraved with a message of your choice, whether to celebrate a significant occasion, remember a moment or to share your love of Nene Park. These leaves are then displayed for all to see. Purchasing a leaf directly supports the work of Nene Park Trust, with your donation helping to ensure our greenspaces can be enjoyed by all forever. More information about Celebration Leaves can be found here

We are so proud of the way we have created this scheme. It is something born out of Ferry Meadows, using our own materials shaped by local skilled crafts people to create this wonderful addition to the Park. Jeni and Alistair were integral to the creation of Celebration Leaves and so we would love for you to hear more about them and how it was created. I spoke to Jeni and Alistair and asked them a few questions about the process of creating the leaves and the sculptures. Here are their responses...

Jeni Cairns

Hi Jeni, tell us a bit about yourself…

I am an artist and garden designer, living and working in the Fens. I love to create sculptures inspired by the nature that surrounds us.

Where do you make the leaves? I make the copper leaves in my metal workshop. First I draw the oak leaf on a sheet of shiny copper, then I use a hand held plasma cutter to carefully cut out the leaf. Next, it needs lot cleaning up of the sharp edges, first with a grinder and then with files. Once clean and smooth I anneal the copper by heating it up until cherry red and then quench in water. This makes it soft and pliable to take the leaf pattern. I then use a skeleton of a real leaf and a rolling mill to imprint the veining of the leaf onto the copper on both sides of the leaf.

How long does it take to produce a leaf?
It takes approximately 30 minutes to create each leaf.

There are many stages to creating one leaf, which is your favourite? My favourite part is the plasma cutting, but I also love to see the pattern emerge as it comes through the rolling mill.

What is one of your favourite memories at Nene Park?
Over the years I have enjoyed many lovely times at the park, from when my children were young to meeting up with friends, and nature-spotting too. Also, the team at Nene park are lovely and do such a great job keeping it maintained.

If you had a Celebration Leaf, what would you write on it?
I think I would choose a special quote or a line from a poem: 'Burst forth with joy and see the beauty'

Alistair Thompson

Hi Alistair, tell us a bit about yourself…

I trained in land management and spent many years working as a park ranger at a variety of different estates and country parks.  Over the years I became frustrated to see how much timber extracted as part of essential forestry work goes to waste.  When my children started school I decided to take a change of direction and set up Quercus Woodcraft to enable land owners to make use of what would otherwise be waste timber through my mobile saw mill and woodcraft services.

How did you make the sculptures for the Celebration Leaves, and how difficult was it?
The sculptures were carved from Oak taken from The Nene Park estate.  I wanted to work with the natural shape of the wood and reflect the wildlife of the Park.  The logs are simply crafted with representations of native plant and animal species twining up the trunks as they would have been when they were growing.

How long did it take to carve each trunk?
Before starting to carve I had to remove the soft sap wood from the trunks as this would decay too quickly.  When I had done this the shape of the trunk was revealed and I was able to start planing the form of sculpture.  Once this process was complete each sculpture took roughly one day to carve.

What will happen to the wood over time?
I have left a natural finish to the wood so over time it will soften to a beautiful silver-grey colour.  As the timber ages, natural cracks will develop adding further character and individuality to the pieces.

What is one of your favourite memories at Nene Park?
I often bring my children to Ferry Meadows and they love running around the woodlands and building shelters in the Forest School area.

If you had a Celebration Leaf, what would you write on it?
The last year has been so tough for everyone, I would have a leaf to thank all those who have worked hard to keep parks and natural spaces open to everyone during the pandemic.