Plans revealed for stone circle in Sheffield wood that could be city's answer to Stone Henge
Welcome to the magical world of Stoneface.
A woodland where the brook bubbles and stone carvings watch over smiling faces. Where nature meets art and your troubles just seem to fade away.
This beautiful space has 60 sculptures which have looked over weddings, film showings and tours.
And now this place of enchantment is almost ready to reveal another moment to marvel at.
It is the latest ambitious project from Andrew Vickers, a sculptor known as Stoneface.
The 56-year-old was born and raised in Stannington, where he now owns the 10-acre Storrs Wood.
The wood is host to the emerging stone circle which may be Sheffield’s answer to Stone Henge.
Andrew’s circle features four stones which are six feet above the ground and two feet below. Four more stones are slightly smaller at five-and-a-half feet above the ground.
And in the centre is a carving in the spirit of the Green Man, a symbol of rebirth, representing the cycle of new growth that occurs every spring.
It is all tied to the pandemic and Andrew’s hope that we are now emerging with a greater respect for nature.
He has already carved a number of heart-shaped sculptures which appeared in and around Sheffield in response to the community spirit he saw during the pandemic.
They form a trail leading to the stone circle, which Andrew has almost finished in memory of the pandemic and people pulling together to help one another.
The stones are high on the banks of the wood where Andrew worked in isolation during the lockdowns. He may have been in isolation, but it didn’t stop him admiring the stories which emerged.
“Over the months of isolation the incredible stories of community spirit resonated more and more and the Storrs Henge project started to form,” he said.
“This is a chance for people to engage back with nature. Storrs Henge will be a unique space to heal, to contemplate and to look to the future.
“This land sculpture will symbolise the strength of humanity that has helped us get through this unprecedented period.”
Visible from miles around, each stone one is hand carved to tell an individual story that celebrates the spirit of community which endured.
Andrew adds the stones will form the shape of an eye to symbolise that spirit and the fact he believes there’s always someone watching over you.
“Most of the carving is done, it’s just tidying up and landscaping,” says Andrew.
Unfortunately, when we speak, a generator has failed meaning he is behind schedule. But he still hopes to complete the circle by July, with a ribbon cutting later in the Summer by much-loved Sheffield artist Joe Scarbrough.
That recognition from a fellow artist is a sign of how far Andrew has come after struggling at school and being faced with an overdraught which would have finished off most people.
But he’s resilient and that may well come from the way he grew up watching nature evolve.
Andrew was born in a house in Brookside Bank Road, Stannington, just two miles away from the wood he bought in 2011.
The house is also 200ft from a river which runs through the wood. “The brook is a constant theme in my life.”
So far, so idyllic, but he couldn’t play in the brook forever and when he went to school at Dungworth Primary and Bradfield Secondary, it’s fair to say he wasn’t the best scholar.
“I’m dyslexic, so I really struggled.” he said. “I was the class fool, was told I would never achieve anything, I was stupid.
“I felt miserable at school and left at 16 to work as an apprentice joiner.”
Fortunately, Andrew had always been good with his hands and was enjoying the joinery work when study became an issue again.
“I was sent to college and so my nightmare was revisited,” he says. “If that hadn’t happened, I would have become a good joiner because I like working with my hands and my head.”
Andrew left and got a job labouring, but found it dull. “I wanted a job that stretched my imagination.
“Labouring was really negative because I need to be constantly exercising my brain.
“I worked on farms doing dry stone walls but needed something else.
“Unfortunately, knowing that didn’t mean I knew what to do about it.
“I finally decided working for the farms felt like being treated as one of the animals so I set up and worked for myself as a dry stone waller.”
By this time, he was in his early 20s and all the time he was thinking about stone.
“I had a fascination for it, it had always been there but I’d never allowed it to the surface. I thought I’d like to work with stone, you can feel something in it, there’s a past, there’s colour and texture.
“I thought you can put designs into a wall. Once you’ve built a wall, that’s it, but I thought there's an opportunity to be more experimental.
“A farmer would ask me to rebuild 2-300 metres of wall which may have been done hundreds of years ago and you never found a signature.
“I thought that was sad because a signature is a badge of pride and that was the Eureka moment in my life.
“I’d never carved a stone at that point so one night I took a lump home, carved a simple stone face and put it back in the wall. That’s how I became Stoneface.
“What that did was show me if I can get an image in my head, I can create anything in stone. I started thinking about it and did a sculpture called Naked, carved in a one and half foot bolder. I realised I could carve a sculpture.”
So in his late 20s the father-of-three started sculpting, paying for it from a landscape gardening business. But still he hadn’t found what he was looking for.
“I just muddled along but what I had was an urge to buy a wood, it was something inside me.”
The urge kept burning and in 2011, a chance meeting gave him an opportunity.
“I actively started looking because there were various woods for sale.
“I was in the shops in Stannington when the woman who owned the Storrs Wood was in. I knew her and I just said ‘Are you alright? You wouldn’t want to sell your wood would you?
“And she said yes!”
Andrew won’t say how much he paid because he doesn’t like talking about money. Fair enough, but as a guide a wood in Wharncliffe Side this year sold for £40,500.
“Not that much! I had a little money saved but nowhere near enough to pay the full price.
“I gave what I had as a deposit and tried to raise the rest as a mortgage but I already had one so had to get an overdraft.
“It nearly killed me but it was the only way of raising money. Life’s like that. I had the urge and if I hadn’t done what would I do?
“So I’ve got this massive wood and a massive overdraft! I had to work!”
Fortunately this comes easy. “I’m always working. If I work 40 hours earning a living, I work another 40 in the wood.
“It was never bought with the intention of making it a business, they work for me as a person. The landscape has created things that please me.”
Andrew’s work is in demand, with his most expensive piece selling for £25,000. “I want anyone to afford my things but I do have a price range which starts at £100. You can pay whatever after that.”
And the piece he is most proud of is Naked, which started it all. “It’s connected with lots of things. It’s a female form in a fetal position, just unfurling. It is a self portrait, me curled up in this stone, almost reborn into sculpture.
“There are pieces I’m not happy about because I am my own biggest critic. When I’m finished I just see faults but time heals those scars and I can let them go.” Andrew is helped by his son Tom, 27, who runs Stoneface. “He’s the business brains, got that from his mum.”
Together they have set up a new website andrewvickersart.com to showcase Stoneface’s work.
It shows a sense of confidence, rightly saying Andrew is now internationally renowned for his powerful, evocative and often spiritual, stone carved art, inspired by the wonder of nature which surrounds him.
The website adds his art now graces the homes and gardens of clients around the world including rock and movie stars, politicians and entrepreneurs.
So it sounds like Andrew is happy. “I feel so privileged to have what I’ve got and do what I do.
And of course he’s doing it in the place where it all started. “I love Sheffield. It’s the most beautiful place. You don’t need to go to the Peak District - Loxley Valley, Rivelin Valley, just incredible and beautiful.”