National Grid makes a splash in Portishead

Popular sculpture returns home to Swan Lake

When Portishead Town Council appealed for help with the  rescue and relocation of a popular local sculpture within Portbury Wharf Nature Reserve, National Grid’s Hinkley Connection Project was keen to offer its support.

For a number of years, the ‘Splash’ sculpture, designed by Cod Steaks, was a key fixture of the Portishead Sculpture Trail and could be found floating in the Avon Wildlife Trust bird reserve lake in Portbury Wharf Nature Reserve. The piece was designed to capture a moment frozen in time, while enhancing its natural surroundings.

Just over a decade ago, the ‘Splash’ sculpture dragged its moorings and vanished from the lake, leaving local people and tourists saddened by its loss. Recently, however, the sculpture was discovered by Portishead Arts photographer Jeff Lucas, buried in thick reeds on the bank of the lake.

Having spent almost a decade buried beneath the lake’s foliage, the sculpture needed to be recovered and restored before it could be installed back into the heart of the local community. Portishead Town Council, North Somerset Council and the Hinkley Connection Project team, who have been working in the area on upgrades to Portishead substation and replacing existing pylons with new underground cables, joined forces to to come up with a plan.

Contractor Balfour Beatty provided the equipment and personnel required to recover the ‘Splash’ sculpture from the mud and reeds. Weighing in at around 150kg and measuring over six feet in diameter, the team had its work cut out to safely remove the sculpture from the reeds, while remaining mindful of the local species that call the nature reserve home.

Its disappearance ... was a real loss to the trail. So, when it was found, we were overjoyed...

The ‘Splash’ sculpture was safely recovered and transported to Cod Steaks in Bristol, who originally made it. Following hours of sensitive refurbishment work and attachment of a new float and anchoring system, the project team worked with North Somerset Council to return the sculpture to the nature reserve. It was successfully moored in Swan Lake and unveiled during the weekend of the well-attended Portishead Arts Festival on Saturday 25 September 2021.

Iain Macfarlane, from North Somerset Council, commented: “The ‘Splash’ sculpture was once a real fixture in the local community, having starred in the Portishead Arts Trail for several years. Its disappearance into the reeds at Portbury Wharf Nature Reserve was a real loss to the trail. So, when it was found, we were overjoyed and raring to help restore the piece to its former glory.

“Working with Jason Raffill and others from the Hinkley Connection Project team, we removed the sculpture from the mud and reeds. It was a tricky task as we had to remain aware of, and avoid disturbing, the local wildlife. Once we had transported the sculpture to its temporary site on the banks of Swan Lake at the Ecology Park, it was clear to see that, once relaunched to the centre of the pond, this piece would be living up to its name and making a ‘Splash’ in the local community again in no time, where residents and visitors can once again enjoy it.”