Last year I posted about the hidden history of a small feature of Plymouth’s Central Park: the face of Neptune. A little later in the year, the local newspaper ran an article on other features, and they included this blog in their report; in which I was alluded to as a ‘local Plymouth man’ (the same article was posted again earlier this month).

The Christmas break provided me with plenty of more opportunities to take the dogs to Central Park, and during these walks I was reminded of the other posts I wanted to include in this series. And so, here is the second one: “Ode to Elm”.

As shown in the photographs, ‘Ode to Elm’ is an intriguing, recent addition to the park. It was installed in 2018 by the Woodland Presents, an organisation of nemophilists (tree lovers, as I have discovered today) that began with creating a ‘treenaissance’ in Dartington, Devon. Their mission is:

Enrich and expand woodlands
Help people fall in love with woods
Make things with British timber
Teach others how to do these things

The wording on the information board in front of ‘Ode to Elm’ provides further context:

‘This sculpture is made from Sapporo Autumn Gold Elm trees that fell in a storm in this park, which provide homes for protected white-letter hairstreak butterflies.

During the 20th century our landscape was changed by Dutch Elm Disease. Millions of trees have died and continue to die. Now Ash, Oak, Larch and other trees are at risk.’

The link between the old fallen trees and this new sculpture is a thoughtful one, however, ‘Ode to Elm’ has encountered the wrath of some local Plymothians. Social media comments include the likes of ‘tax payers money wasted’, ‘wtf is that monstrosity’, and general comments on the ‘ugliness’ of it. One concerned resident contacted the Council to establish a freedom of information request as to the expense; it was revealed that the cost of the sculpture and installation was ¬£12,000.

Despite the negative comments, ‘Ode to Elm’ adds an additional dimension to Central Park. Furthermore, it provides a connection – no matter how small – of the past to the present, and as such I will remain a firm supporter of its presence in the park.