THE BIRDMAN’S HUT Grizedale Forest
No one has ever seen the birdman,
although walkers exploring the wild spaces between the forest trails, sometimes stumbled upon his hut.
Perched on a rocky outcrop,near the top of the forest, his ramshackle shack looked out over the treetops,towards the high peaks of the Lake District.
The hut seemed deserted, the unlocked door swung open with a creak,
revealing a darkened interior lined with a curious collection of items.
Shelves lined with smooth stones & luminous sea-shells from nearby Sellafield were connected by coloured wires & wands.
Electrical cicuitry connected the feathers & bones of many forest birds.
Bird boxes lined the eaves,& empty nests filled some of the pigeon holes.
An owl sheltered there for several winters,startling visitors when it took flight.
Forest breezes turned the windmills fixed on tall poles, rattling the roof.
A ladder led up through a trap door,to a winged platform, high above the roof.
Was the Birdman some sort of post-technological Shaman?
Had he flown in the face of dis-belief?
I built the SCALE GREEN BIRDMAN’S HUT during a three month residency at GRIZEDALE FOREST in the Lake District in 1981. I was the fifth Grizedale sculptor.
DAVID NASH, RICHARD HARRIS & ANDY GOLDSWORTHYhad built some pioneering work from natural materials,& many artists have worked there since.
I had been invited up from CORNWALL,where I had been working in a wild clifftop environment,making things from derelict farm machinary & rural junk.
The Grizedale residency was my first opportunity to build some public sculpture.
The Birdmans Hut was one of my first, & still remains a favourite.
Most of the materials came from the forest. The Birdman was a Magpie,scavenging forest dumps for materials of all kinds.
Although I built the hut thirty years ago, ideas about context,& building site specific sculptures, started here, as well as enduring interests in re-cycling,post industrial futures,story telling & connections between mythology& technology.
In a forest environment atrophy is as certain as growth.The sculpture had a formal structure, & it was built to rot.The foundations were stone,& the superstructure timber, which contained a lining of found objects.
In time, the piece was designed to fall in upon itself,making its own burial mound, containing a trove of strange artefacts, buried within a circle of stones, for future generations to unearth.
But things do not always go as planned.The hut had been hidden from the forest trails by a group of very tall european larches(some of the tallest trees in Britian),which grew along the hilltop.In october 1987, the Great Storm whipped through the forest, uprooting & felling most of these magnificant trees.
Curiously, the Birdmans Hut was completly untouched, but ,amidst the destruction,totally exposed.
The Forestry Commission had a huge job clearing the tangles of wrecked trees, & preparing the ground to re-plant.
It was decided to fence in the entire hillside. The Birdmans Hut had its cover blown
(quite literally) .It would, very likely attract unwanted traffic across the newly planted forest. It was dismantled & removed.