Somerset's famous Willow Man could be revived after funding boost

The Willow Man has been battered by the elements and has lost much of its willow Credit: Somerset Council

Somerset's famous Willow Man sculpture, regularly seen by thousands of passing motorists on the M5 near Bridgwater, may have been given a breath of new life.

The Willow Man was created by artist Serena De la Hay and unveiled in 2000 to mark the 'Year of the Artist'.

Despite having been repaired several times over the last two decades, it has recently fallen into disrepair.

It was commissioned by South West Arts and was intended to celebrate the significance of willow in the ecology and craft tradition of the Somerset Levels.Somerset Council is set to receive a funding injection of £35,000 from National Highways' Designated Funding programme to conduct an initial feasibility study.

The study aims to explore the potential for repairing, enhancing, and relocating the Willow Man. Plans for the future include the possibility of reconstructing the sculpture with sturdier materials.

The Willow Man during a previous repair in 2017

This financial support will allow for various activities, including public engagement, preliminary designs, cost estimations, artistic renderings, as well as land ownership and topography surveys to pinpoint suitable relocation sites.

The Council is encouraging community participation through an online engagement page where residents can share their views.

Somerset Council’s Lead Member for Transport and Digital, Councillor Mike Rigby said: "We’re really pleased National Highways have given us this money to explore the possibilities.

"Willow Man has been a prominent feature for Somerset and it is sad the sculpture is in such a state of disrepair.   

"But we need to be clear that any potential project looking to repair, enhance or relocate Willow Man would be subject to another significant funding bid, or bids – it unfortunately is not a spending priority at this point.   

"Somerset Council is not in a position to commit any funds to the project but we will be looking to explore all future funding options following the engagement and design work."  

Jonathan Hill, National Highways’ Route Manager, said: "At National Highways, our work goes beyond operating, maintaining and improving roads.

"We’re investing in the environment and communities surrounding our network, as well as the people travelling and working on it.  

"We're providing initial funding to Somerset Council to support their aspirations to realise a project to restore the iconic structure alongside the M5 – a glowing example of how this funding can make life better for communities living and working near our roads. 

"We hope that, by providing the funding to kick-start this project, the council will be able to explore third party funding opportunities to restore or replace this South West landmark."