Burton’s oldest building, Sinai Park House is opening as part of the national Heritage Open Days scheme on September 19th and 20th, featuring the live creation of a chainsaw sculpture of a cowled monk, marking Sinai’s original history as a rest home for the monks of Burton Abbey. The sculpture is being supported by The National Forest Company, whose walks now provide access to the land attached to Sinai Park House including the sacred waters of its Chalybeate Well, currently undergoing restoration.
Heritage Open Days is an annual festival of free access to historic sites and the 2020 theme is ‘Hidden Nature’, so walking through the Sinai woodland and accessing The National Forest Company’s newest attraction reflects this topical subject.
Sinai Park House Trust’s fundraiser, Laura Wigg-Bailey explained, “The Trust’s aim is to share the secrets of Sinai Park House with a wider audience by hosting a two-day event during the national Heritage Open Days 2020 festival. We have commissioned well-regarded local chainsaw sculptor, Peter Leadbeater to create an eight-foot cowled monk sculpture from a piece of the ash tree recently felled at Sinai to enable the restoration of the sacred waters of the plunge pool.”
Sinai Park House Trust is in the process of creating a permissive path from the existing National Forest Sinai Woodlands walk to restore public access to the healing waters of Sinai’s Chalybeate well. This path was made possible by the support of the National Forest Company and the Burton Conservation Volunteers. Over the HODS weekend, and in line with Government social distancing advice and regulations, small groups of people will be able to book guided walks up from Shobnall Road along the National Forest path to see the sculpture being created and view the progress of the restoration of the sacred well. Laura added, “The Sinai Park House Trust is going to use the remaining timber from the ash tree to create picnic tables and benches around the plunge pool, so that families and small groups can really enjoy this amazing site.”
The subject of the chainsaw sculpture has been chosen to highlight the important connection between Burton Monastery and Sinai Park House in the 14th and 15th centuries. Laura continued, “It will be great to enable people to learn about this connection and experience some of the atmosphere and mystery to be found on the site used by the Monks for rest and recuperation after blood-letting.”
There will be six tours on each day with a maximum of fifteen people on each tour and anyone wishing to join in will be encouraged to park at and patronise the Albion Hotel before or after their tour. This option will include the chance to secure bikes at the pub. The walks will be led by volunteers who will be drawn from the Sinai Park House Trust’s existing volunteer body and also through a volunteer recruitment drive launched in June 2020 with the help of Support Staffordshire and the Trust’s existing partnership with Burton Albion Community Trust. Anyone wanting to become a Sinai volunteer or to join the Friends of Sinai Park House scheme can register their interest at the HODS event.
The free tours take place hourly from 10am until 3pm on each of the two days.