The sculpture resembles a half buried Viking longship, with the stern and bow formed in timber and the sides indicated by large natural stones, one carved with a simple tree design. A path runs through the centre of the sculpture, which is placed within a copse of trees. At the stern a Viking knotwork design runs up the timber cumulating in a bundle of hops, while the bow of the longship is formed by a jug pouring out a stream of ale. Both refer to Burton's brewing industry, but the 'water' element also evokes the watery nature of the Washlands. Since the Viking culture was intensely commercial with many trading routes, reaching Burton during the raids of 874 by sailing up the River Trent, the work also recalls Burton's earliest history.
This sculpture forms part of the Washlands Sculpture Trail which was set up by the Borough of East Staffordshire's Leisure Services with support from the Burton and District Arts Council, Burton Civic Society, Burton-upon-Trent College and West Midlands Arts. Financial aid and materials were supplied by the sponsors and local businesses. The sculptures are intended to, "offer innovative interpretations of the natural, social and historical heritage of this unique area and its relevance to the people of Burton today". (2) The projects deliberately involved local people, especially schools and various community groups.
The artist has explained that the sculpture crosses a path because she wished to convey the idea of the passage of time since the Vikings were in Burton. The use of stones reflects the Viking custom of marking graves by arranging stones in a boat shape. The sculptor intended the work to be seen as a relic of the past, almost buried, but not quite dead - for the prow, emptying water into the earth, causes new life to emerge in the stern, in the form of the hops. She wants to convey the idea that, however dead it may seem, the past is part of us and its assimilation makes us what we are. In this sculpture, she hopes to evoke a sense of the constant loss and renewal - of culture, language, identity - which takes place over the rise and fall of the centuries, and the survivor spirit of humanity and the natural world.(1)
On a plinth near the bench: 'LAND & WATER'/ BY ROSEMARY TERRY/THIS SCULPTURE WAS UNVEILED BY/ SUSAN BELL, DIRECTOR OF THE/ NATIONAL FOREST DEVELOPMENT TEAM/ ON 25 FEBRUARY 1994/ SUPPORTED BY THE BOROUGH OF EAST STAFFORDSHIRE,/ THE NATIONAL FOREST,/ BURTON UPON TRENT TECHNICAL COLLEGE AND/ BURTON CIVIC SOCIETY
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