Tree carving marks century of sports at Leavesden Country Park

Press ReleaseUpdated: 24 October 2023Leisure, parks and culture

An extraordinary tree carving that marks a century of sport and fairground enjoyment at Leavesden Country Park joins the collection of sculptures at the park. 

A felled horse chestnut tree was carved in August by local chainsaw artist Will Lee and was part of the award-winning National Lottery Heritage-funded project, which was led and managed by Three Rivers District Council.

Will, who was commissioned by the council and created the ‘Machines’ element of the Parks Heritage Sculpture Trail, carved a football player, cricketer and fairground rides to celebrate the use of Leavesden Country Park’s sports field over the last century by patients and staff at the then Leavesden Asylum/Hospital from 1870 to 1995 and in later years, by the community.

The horse chestnut tree was planted along the avenue in what was the original grounds of the sports field, but sadly felled many years ago due to poor health and laid in situ ever since.

Leavesden Hospital History Association informed the project team that cricket and football were regularly played on the field by patients and staff, as well as the site for the hospital's annual Fetes and fairgrounds, and suggested that the tree could be carved to symbolise the range of activities the field had seen and was an important part of the Hospital's legacy.

The tree carving joins the nine other sculptures at the park, which mark the park’s history, such as the Leavesden Aerodrome and Leavesden Film Studios (now the acclaimed Warner Bros. Studios Leavesden).

Cllr Chris Lloyd, Lead Member for Leisure, said: “This is an incredible feature to the historic Leavesden Country Park that marks and gives insight into the sport that the hospital’s patients and staff enjoyed in the last century, and is near the finish of the Junior Parkrun and runs for Parkrun on the Saturday also run past it.

“The wooden tribute has been beautifully carved by Will and tells the story of the sports field over the years very well.”

Martin T Brooks, Founder of the Leavesden Hospital History Association, who provided the historical research for the project, said: “There was a sports day/fete held in the hospital grounds every year from its opening in 1870 until its closure in 1995. This annual event was something that all residents, staff and the local community looked forward to each year.

“The local community enjoyed the large carnival-like atmosphere and the opportunity to look behind the walls of the hospital and to get to know the residents and staff, their neighbours, better.

“The tree carving is a very unique and natural way to remember the benefits of the variety of outdoor events that took place on this site starting back in 1870.”

The carved tree lies in the field near the Leavesden HIVE building in Leavesden Country Park and can be enjoyed by all.