THE custodians of a forest which has seen soaring visitor numbers have unveiled a plan to further enhance the public’s enjoyment of the area by creating a sculpture of a winged sheep that can withstand people climbing on it.

Forestry England hopes its proposal for North Yorkshire sculptor Fiona Bowley to carve the 2.3m-high artwork in situ at Jerry Noddle viewpoint in Dalby Forest, near Pickering, will provide an additional focal point for visitors and a place to stop and shelter from strong cold winds.

The installation, which will also feature grazing sheep, would be the latest in a series of art-related attractions that the government agency has asked the North York Moors National Park Authority for permission to introduce across the 8,000-acre woodland.

In 2018, a proposal to site Turner Prize-winning artist Rachel Whiteread’s concrete sculpture of a Nissen hut was granted planning permission, despite being likened to an “inner city bus shelter” and Low Dalby villagers claiming it would mean tens of thousands more visitors outside their homes.

In 2013, sculptor Ray Lonsdale’s steel memorial to Lumberjills - the women who worked in forestry during the Second World War – measuring some 5m by 3m – w installed at Haygate Bank in the forest.

Despite the national park authority being charged with preserving its unique landscapes, such schemes have found favour with planners as they link to its purposes to conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage and promote opportunities for its understanding.

In documents submitted to the park authority, Forestry England said it had invested heavily in Dalby Forest to develop the site into “a regionally significant visitor attraction”, which provides recreation facilities for a wide range of people. Visitor numbers have increased from 350,000 to 460,000 over the last ten years.

The papers state the sandstone artwork would provide a link to the forest’s 1,600m dry stone wall maze by portraying the sheep of the moors in a creative and unusual way. Skipton-based sculptor Ms Bowley focuses on carving sheep and applying the techniques of ancient Greek, Assyrian, medieval European and 18th century artists to their fleeces.

A Forestry England spokesman said: “Interpretation of the landscape, wildlife, people and traditions is a key part of the offer to visitors. The site, at the moment, is exposed to the elements, but it provides a spectacular view over the landscape.

’This will be retained and the sculpture will provide an additional focal point for visitors, a place to stop and shelter, mainly from the strong cold winds. Even though it isn’t intended for visitors to climb on, the sculpture will be installed so that it can withstand that pressure.

“The sculpture aims to enhance the view into the landscape. It is small enough not to obstruct the view, whilst it is large enough to draw attention to it and provide some shelter from the weather.

“This development will enhance that aspect of the viewpoint by drawing attention to what people can see in the landscape.”

Forestry England said the proposed sculpture site would be accessed on a level track, enabling wheelchair users to visit.