By: Peter Clements
Ever since the Crab and Winkle way was opened to the public I’d had the idea of producing a woodcarving of some kind to put up at the entrance to the off-road section of the NCN 1 in Whitstable.
I had no idea whether such a thing would be allowed by the ‘powers that be’ and presumably I’d need to draft an initial proposal. The trouble was, I had so many ideas about what to include and the longer this went on, the more unlikely it seemed that I would actually get something completed on the scale I had in mind.
There were four connected themes that I felt were important to represent:
- the original use of the Whitstable to Canterbury route as the world’s first passenger carrying railway
- the change of transport mode to that of walkers and cyclists
- the ‘Crab and Winkle’ nickname fondly used by locals of previous generations
- a slightly tongue in cheek ‘seaside postcard’ element
While the original idea was to include all of these in a large scale single oak carving, I soon realised this would have been a too large an undertaking and I wondered if it would ever become a reality or remain just an idea. To actually get started, I thought the best thing to do would be to try a small section from part of a chestnut log obtained from nearby woods. The idea for the method of relief carving into the face of a round log came from a Canterbury woodcarver who had hollowed out a niche into tree stump in a park, with a figure crouched within it. This was very large scale, having been roughed out with a chainsaw then finished with carving tools so mine, to be produced in my shed, was to be far smaller in comparison.
After consultation with the Crab and Winkle Trust, it was agreed that the carving could be fixed to the stile provided it was not wider than the 15cm rail to which it would be attached. First I had to split the chestnut log into sections using metal wedges revealing the sweet smelling wet timber inside which was then flattened with an adze and a handplane. Next, an elliptical shape was into the bark with a smaller elliptical raised panel onto which the design was transferred using carbon paper. The design was in turn carved with gouges and chisels.
The completed carving was approved and then attached to the stile at South Street. It proved to be quite popular with the public so a second almost identical one followed shortly afterwards. The ‘cheeky seaside postcard’ idea came to be a reality about a year later using the same methods as above. I really liked the idea of a cyclist being pursued by an angry crab pinching the cyclist’s bottom! It seemed appropriate that the crab would appear to be chasing the cyclist away from the Whitstable seaside. From the other direction then, what about a cyclist being chased by Stevenson’s ‘Invicta’ locomotive? These themes are now represented in the second pair of carvings which are now in position at the other stile further inland at Blean.
I’m glad to have been able to contribute to this well- used and popular section of the NCN 1 on which I am a volunteer ranger. The carving project was really enjoyable and worthwhile and the first two carvings have weathered nicely and now blend in well and look as if they’ve always been there. I think the project has succeeded in combining old and new uses of the route with a humorous element that will be associated with the traditional coastal town.