In 2001 The East Yar River was subject to a major river restoration programme. Strengthening connections between the river and local people was seen as a vital component to the hard ecological work taking place, as it was local communities that would be guardians for the river in the future. The visual arts were used to awaken people to the river and its delights and to nurture a respectful relationship. Paul Mason was employed to craft the 20 milestones along the river trail and to create a series of six sculptures sited along the river’s course, from Source to Sea.
My intention was to make a series of small sculptures which would celebrate different aspects of the river and be sited along its route. The rich nature of the landscape and the specific action of the river, at times in both shaping and being part of the Island landscape, was the start of my ideas. There were many associated ideas i wanted to include: the geography and the geology of the island, the geometry of microscopic organs that emulated bigger systems, patterns within natural forms and the mineral world that connected spiritually and emotionally with the natural beauty of the many places by the River Yar.
Paul worked with children from three primary schools sited along the river. Each child visited their local area with Paul and collected materials that caught their fancy. Then they created their own spherical worlds. The drawing process between sculpture and the children was two way with Paul drawing inspiration from the children’s responses, informing the sculptures.
Source Stone – Niton
Just as the river springs up and cuts its way into the landscape, so the spiral incised line undercores the words Source Spring Well as they unfurl and expand around the stone.
Ridge and Valley – Strathwell Park
Sited where the valley reaches up either side of the river in its early stages, the rhythm of the ridge and valley takes on a mineral-like geometric symmetry and celebrates the combination of water and stone which has formed the landscape around.
Yar Stone – Alverstone
The compound eye-like structure of this sculpture is the key to unlocking the magnified worlds of the River Yar and the myriad types of micro-organisms it sustains, such as diatoms, slime moulds and radiolaari.
Pools and Puddles – Alverstone
The simple pattern and recessed circles echo those places where the waters settle, even at times stop and slowly form a silent space similar to pools of sunlight and dappled shadows that suspend time and mark the slow turning of the earth.
Water Lilies – Adgestone
The patterning around the stone takes a more organic and leaf like form prompted by the children’s sculptures in the workshops. It celebrates in the spectacle of nature in all its diversity, fed by the waters of the Yar.
Plain Tide Sea – Brading
The strong directional flow of the Source Stone has now become part of a vast tidal motion and the words of Plain Tide and Sea are breaking up and dissipating as they become borne away in a series of slow undulating ripples, becoming part of the sea and oceans beyond.
In 2020 Natural Enterprise and the Isle of Wight Ramblers rediscovered and mapped the sculptures. Most were still visible but two had disappeared into undergrowth and were lost to all but local people.
If you want to see the sculptures, all but one are on the Yar River Trail. However, you may wish to visit individually, so the details are:
1. Start in Niton SZ 5045 7668
2. Strathwell Park SZ 5162 7786
3. Alverstone Bridge parapet SZ 5776 8554
4. Along riverbank near Alverstone Mead on a tree. SZ 5814 8539
5. Sandown Community Orchard on cycle way/edge of river SZ 5879 8512
6. Brading Marsh by first sluice SZ 6156 8703.