Meet the new panda of Nowton Park
- Credit: West Suffolk Council
After 23 years' service, a popular panda is now off on his retirement - and has been replaced by a younger model.
The wooden sculpture has been a favourite fixture at Nowton Park, Bury St Edmunds, since 1998 and sits in the China section of the arboretum surrounded by his favourite food, bamboo.
Senior ranger at the park Dwaine Gray said with the help of volunteers they had tried to maintain the panda - with new paint and scraping off the dead wood - but felt they were "losing the battle".
The new panda sculpture was carved out of Douglas fir by Luke Chapman over three weeks and installed at Nowton Park earlier this week.
West Suffolk Council, which manages the park, said: “The Nowton Park panda has been a popular attraction at the park for the last 23 year and while it is now time for the old panda to retire, we are delighted with our new arrival who we’re sure will continue to be popular with park visitors for many years to come.”
Mr Gray added: "One of the reasons for renovating it, one of the regulars says she uses it as navigation around the park. She got lost in the winter in lockdown and she put some money towards the new one."
He added: "The old panda wasn't the beacon it had been."
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Mr Chapman, a woodcarver based in Norfolk, said: "It's always nice to put something in a public space. I have got children and when they are older and have got children of their own, it's a legacy there."
Mr Gray said he would like more sculptures for the park, if funding is possible, such as a kangaroo in the Australasia area of the arboretum.
Mr Chapman added: "There's a lot of scope in the park for sculptures that work well in the environment. There's some very interesting species of trees in the park. They are grouped in various world areas - Australasia, China.
"It works quite nice educationally for people to see what animals would go with those trees."
The original panda was made by Guy Penn, who also made a dragon and a totem pole, which are still there.
- Mr Gray is looking for a local sculptor who could carve smaller pandas out of the 'retired' one. Email him here.