Whittonstall Wicker Man
Art Stocksfield Northumberland

The Whittonstall Wicker Man

Art In Stocksfield, Northumberland

A cool rural wicker man, keeping an eye on any bad lads on the border of Northumberland and Durham.

Surveying the wheat and wildflowers, standing guard, head and shoulders, (actually hips and knees too) above the hedgerows, we saw the Whittonstall Wicker Man.

With a backdrop of far away Simonside, he was quite a sight in rural Northumberland, just south of Stocksfield. This steel framed goliath stands on his own, kept company by neighbouring fields of sheep and coooos, and the occasional lilting swift.

We were drawn to him like moths to a flame and went down the little lane to see if he was up for visitors. Of course, we checked with the Wicker Man's Dad and creator, artist and blacksmith John Rutherford who was more than happy to oblige and let us wade through the buttercups for an audience with the big guy.

The notion of the Wicker Man has been a long tradition. In the mid 1st century BC Caesar was recorded commenting on a huge wickerwork figure, limbs filled with criminals which was set on fire! Gruuuuuuuuesome or what? Druids were known to sacrifice men and beasts by burning them in huge wickerwork statues.

During the midsummer night celebrations in the mid-17th century in France, snakes were burned in a wickerwork column, and in the 18th and 19th centuries, just the giant on his tod was burnt as a celebration of the summer solstice. This fella was built and burnt for John's fortieth a few years back. Some people mustn't be happy to settle for candles on a cake eh? I noticed John had no neighbours nearby! Maybe they'd all upped sticks and moved to stay on the safe side!

We were happy to learn he'd had a perk up a few years after, and was restored to his wonderful, willowy former glory!

The Whittonstall Wicker Man is a big lad! At five metres tall he was about two and a half husband's worth in height.

His bones are a steel frame fashioned at Fairley Forge run by artist John and the rest is a delicate mix of willow and wonderful metalwork. His helmet looked Viking-like with a healthy mane of sheep's wool on his head. His beard was an array of shiny metal oak leaves.

In his clenched metal fists, he held a heavy steel sword, sporting a cyclopean glassy eye which looked like it had seen a lot of combat with the Shotley Bridge Bandits!

It was all good fun, good-natured public art, with a wry twist. John's work is billed as “Metalwork, from the marvellous to the mundane. Sculpture, firepits, junk art and general repairs”

The Whittonstall Wicker Man was anything but mundane. It playfully punctuated the landscape, like John's other work on the lane to the forge...wise, witty and wonderful. A definite happy find.

Thanks to Alan Draffan for his evocative nighttime shot, The Wicker Man under wild skies!

If you're out and about and looking for another distinctive little find, you could do no better than heading up the hill to find the evocative St Andrews Church and The Hopper Mausoleum.

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How To Find Whittonstall Wicker Man

Where Is Whittonstall Wicker Man?

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Lat / Long

54.902908, -1.918846

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Where To Park For Whittonstall Wicker Man?

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Lat / Long

54.90218, 54.90218

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Pull in to the side of the road where there's an opening to the field. This is a single track road, so just be aware of passing farm vehicles.

Contributed by Jos Forester-Melville

Highland loving human. Thalassophile. I love a good smile. Happiest heading for the hills with my pickup filled with kids and dogs! Working four days, we enjoy a Fridate, and usually spend it scouting out new scenery. I love a gated track, a bit of off roading and if it involves a full ford, well, that gets extra points! I go nowhere without a flask and binoculars, and love the small things in life that make it big…Goldcrests, dry stone walls, Deadman’s fingers, blackberries and quality clouds.

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Jos Forester-Melville

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Whittonstall Wicker Man was listed in Art // Northumberland // Stocksfield