If you go down to the woods today you’re in for a massive surprise – a nine feet tall grizzly bear.
The giant creature, weighing in at about three quarters of a ton, is the latest eye-boggling creation of chainsaw sculptor Paul Morris, a long-standing member of the garden and maintenance team at the Pendine Park care organisation in Wrexham.
Paul’s mastery of chainsaw sculpting has led to him carving nearly 150 sculptures out of naturally fallen trees, mainly of animals, birds, and insects, reflecting his lifelong passion for wildlife and the environment.
A number of them, including a giant gorilla, a wise owl, and a cheeky squirrel, are dotted around the leafy 11-acre grounds of Pendine Park’s care homes in Wrexham, much to the delight of residents, visiting family members and staff.
But the grizzly, a species properly known as Ursus Arctos Horribilis, is by far his biggest sculpture to date – and despite its Latin name there is nothing horrible about this hugely impressive figure.
Paul has purposely hewn the wood so that the eye-catching bear stands upright on its hind legs, towering above all around.
He is working on it in stages and has put in about 15 hours of hard graft so far, with another 20 hours of work needed before it is completed.
Paul said: “The gorilla, carved from a naturally fallen maple tree, was probably my previous biggest sculpture but the grizzly is a real giant, one and a half times the size of me.”
He chose the subject after a Sycamore tree was blown down in the wild winds of Storm Arwen in November 2021.
Paul said: “A huge branch fell down and I could just see the potential in it. I hate to see fallen wood burned or go to waste when it is possible to use it for something creative. That’s how I started out sculpting, as a way of reclaiming natural woodland waste, giving it a new kind of life.”
His first sculpture was a much smaller subject – a little owl which he carved as a birthday gift for wife, Gaynor.
He said: “I knew she had a big affection for owls and I wanted to do something special for her birthday so I thought I would have a go at sculpting with the chainsaw. I wasn’t sure how she would react but when she saw it she really loved it.
“That spurred me on to try some more creations, learning the different skills as I went along.”
Paul has carved a bear once before but on a much smaller scale.
He was inspired to do the first bear and subsequently the gorilla by Pendine Park proprietors, Mario Kreft MBE and his wife, Gill, who are keen conservationists and have been on several gorilla trekking expeditions in Africa.
Paul said: “They were both delighted with the results but I knew Mario was keen for me to do a large scale bear.
“It was just a question of waiting for the right piece of wood to come along and when the storm hit last year we sadly lost a number of trees from Pendine grounds, including this massive sycamore. I knew as soon as I saw it that it would be perfect for a grizzly.”
Paul said he was carving it in honour of Mario’s late father, Franz, who many years ago travelled the world as a bear and lion trainer in a circus.
Paul added: “Bears are proud creatures and I think it’s important that it looks majestic and imposing rather than scary or monster-like.”
The nickname grizzly is thought to have originated from the word ‘grisley’, meaning that the species had grey or silver-tipped fur, but over time it morphed into Grizzly for its fearsome size.
His previous creations have also included some fun projects like a six feet silver surfer figure which he produced specially for a Caribbean style carnival which staff organised to cheer up Pendine Park residents during the pandemic lockdown last summer.
Often Paul can see at a glance what kind of sculpture it is possible to make from a piece of wood.
He said: “It depends on the size, the natural shape and sometimes the species of wood. I always think it is a shame to see wood like natural oak burned on a fire, for instance, when it can look so dazzling carved into a garden feature or other focal piece.”
Mr Kreft can’t wait to see the giant grizzly when it’s finished and says it will take pride of place in the grounds at Pendine, along with the other members of the wooden menagarie.
He said: “Paul is hugely talented and his chainsaw creations add interest to the gardens. I know how much residents like seeing them.
“My late father, Franz, worked as a circus animal trainer particularly with bears and lions so the sculpture of the bear also means a great deal to me.”
Head gardener Andrew Jones is equally impressed with Paul’s dazzling skill with a chainsaw.
He said: “He uses wood from storm damaged or diseased trees we have to cut down.
“Instead of the wood going to waste or just being burned it’s been given a new lease of life and the sculptures really add something new and interesting to our gardens.”