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Returned Resident’s Initiative Gives a Restored Picture of Local Nature at Pewley

Published on: 2 Jul, 2021
Updated on: 5 Jul, 2021

Dragon reader Jason Forde wrote in to say: “Would you like to do a piece on the new nature tableau at Pewley Down that I raised crowd-funded money for; and then, with the help of artist Robyn Horsburgh, brought to fruition last Friday?

Yes, we said, we would. So we sent Jason a few questions and here are his answers.

The old tableau in a sorry state after years on display.

Where did the idea for a restored tableau come from? 

Having once lived on Warren Road, I became a frequent walker in and around Pewley Down. Invariably, each hike, be it to St. Martha’s, Shere or Newlands Corner, afforded me the double opportunity to slowly fall in love with this iconic landmark.

So after living in Europe for 20 years,  I was saddened, on my return, to see just how weather-worn the tableau had become in the intervening time. I immediately resolved to do something about it – helped by a friend’s suggestion that I set up an online crowdfunding page.

Workers from DH Building & Landscape in Cranleigh erecting the frame.

What is its purpose?

In an age where everything is solely acclaimed in terms of it being the latest technological gizmo, this “nature tableau”, seeking to inspire the next generation of flora and fauna fans, is a fitting conduit back to a bygone time when joy and curiosity were ignited by the beauty of the simpler things in life.

Jason Forde

My plan was to make something that sought only to pass on the baton bestowed to us all by a previous group of wildlife visionaries – rather than blindly believing that “modernisation” always equates to an intrinsic improvement. 

My aim was therefore to find a local artist whose talents were so well-honed that he/she would be able to convey visual facts (such as how a red kite soars; or a fallow deer seeks security by seemingly becoming at one with its environment), with the child-like innocence that the old tableau so wonderfully captured.  

In other words, it should be a credible source of information, as well as being a piece of installation art that leaves its viewers wiser-of-mind and happier-of-soul for having taken the time to break free from their digital umbilical cords and so engage their eyes and hearts with something capable of transcending our deeper human senses. 

I was eager to avoid what all too often happens when something undergoes an updating – that the replacement turns out to be a sterile and vacuous shadow of the original’s radiant glory. 

Carefully does it. Lifting the tableau into position.

Who was involved? 

Once I set the wheels in motion to raise the monies needed, I had the great good fortune to find an artist that shared my passion and vision for this project, Robyn Horsburgh.  

She has managed to excel at the three most important aspects of the remit I set her:

1) Paint a tableau in a way that appeals to, and engages with, the younger generation (the welfare of the countryside for years to come depends on kids falling in love with all aspects of nature); whilst also being a fine piece of art in its own right.

2) Pay due homage to the vision of the original tableau so that those that very much loved the old one will happily switch their allegiance to this latest iteration.  

3) Make something that passing wayfarers will be rightly proud of for many decades to come. 

Without her, the tableau just would never have been completed.

Equally, without the generous contributions from her son, Duncan (and his construction company, DH Building & Landscapes), we would never have been able to build a bespoke wooden frame and cedar shingle roof to such a high standard of craftsmanship.

Hopefully, the roof will delay the inevitable weathering.

The old tableau was within a year or two of utter decimation as damp rot and ant colonisation wrought its worst. A treasured feature of the Surrey countryside could have been lost forever.

Instead, thanks to Robyn, we have something truly precious to bestow to future Pilgrim Way walkers.

It will of course take a while before word begins to spread about just how delightful the tableau is. But in time, I fully expect GPS phone apps and activity books covering trails/sights-to-see in the area will encourage their users to make a special effort to see and enjoy this work of art for themselves.

The notice that encouraged contributions to the restoration project.

How much money was required and how was it raised?  

In total, I raised a little over £1,900. Which, though a lot, was less than the amount needed to deliver a top-quality tableau and protective solid wood housing. Thankfully, as mentioned above, Robyn and Duncan valiantly stepped into the breach and made up the shortfall with their commendable generosity.

Where is the tableau? 

It can be found at the end of the Mile Path, as one walks from Pewley Down to Chantry Wood. 

When was it erected? 

Friday, June 25 2021 

The new tableau in position, bright and informative.

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