The first sculpture has been completed for the makeover of the 1066 Country Walk in East Sussex. The project was temporarily stalled because of the coronavirus pandemic, but work has continued behind the scenes and is now set for completion in spring 2021.

The 31-mile 1066 Country Walk, which begins at Pevensey and ends at Rye having visited Battle en-route, was due to be transformed by Rother District Council this year thanks to a European grant of more than £160,000 from the Rural Payments Agency. But like many other projects and council services, the project had to be put on hold because of the public health crisis.

However, sculptor Keith Pettit, who was commissioned at the start of the year to create a number of bespoke sculptures to act as key points along the route, has completed his first piece. Taking the Bayeux Tapestry as a theme, Keith is producing a series of sculpture trail pieces, including two more significant gateway pieces, and bespoke seating points between Pevensey and Rye. 

The first sculpture is made of two huge oak beams, featuring carved animals – some native and others exotic. “I had been looking at the animals found within the borders of the tapestry and thought the idea would tie in with the agricultural theme of parts of the route," said Keith. 

"I am amazed that exotic animals are included in the tapestry, for example there’s a tiger and as far as historians are concerned the western world was still to discover this particular animal. I wanted to share that sense of wonderment on the sculpture. We view the Dark Ages so wrongly, and the knowledge of the natural world beyond the immediate horizon chimes with this misunderstanding.”

Adding texture to the wood was a deliberate move to reflect something of Sussex architecture. He explained: “I have tapered the wood, inspired by the profile of old flint walls found in farmyards and as field boundaries, a link to Sussex and its vernacular architecture.”

Taking more inspiration from Norman architecture, he has also incorporated an opening into the design. “This negative space actually links the two parts of the sculpture. I wanted to weave into it something reflecting or inspired by Norman architecture so this space becomes a Norman door – or possibly better still it becomes a window. The tapestry with all its detail, gives us a window into the life in 1066.”

Signage for the project was put on hold when the signage company had to close for lockdown, as was the new visitor map to accompany the route. But with restrictions easing, the project is restarting with a new timescale. On-site work is now due to get going again later this summer, ready for completion in spring 2021.

You can read an earlier post about the 1066 Country Walk here. For any project queries, please email Rother District Council.

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