Pruned — On landscape architecture and related fields — ArchivesFuture Plural@pruned — Offshoots — #Chicagos@altchicagoparks@southworkspark
The 25-Year Riverine Journey of a Wooden Boulder Carved out of a Felled 200-Year-Old Oak Tree
David Nash - Wooden Boulder

Beginning in 1978, when a spherical chunk of oak got lodged in a stream as he was moving it to his studio, the sculptor David Nash has documented its long riverine journey.

“For 25 years,” Nash writes, “I have followed its engagement with the weather, gravity and the seasons. It became a stepping-stone into the drama of physical geography. Spheres imply movement and initially I helped it to move, but after a few years I observed it only intervening when absolutely necessary - when it became wedged under a bridge.”

David Nash - Wooden Boulder

David Nash - Wooden Boulder

David Nash - Wooden Boulder

The journey is so extraordinary — made more so perhaps by the fact that it's so well-documented — that we can't help but quote the rest of Nash's accounts:

During the first 24 years it moved down stream nine times remaining static for months and years. Sedentary and heavy it would sit bedded in stones animated by the varying water levels and the seasons. Beyond the bridge its position survived many storms, the force of the water spread over the shallow banks did not have the power to shift it. I did not expect it to move into the Dwyryd river in my lifetime.

Then in November 2002 it was gone. The 'goneness' was palpable. The storm propelled the boulder 5 kilometres, stopping on a sandbank in the Dwryd estuary. Now tidal, it became very mobile. The high tides around full moon and the new moon moved it every 12 hours to a new place, each placement unique to the consequence of the tide, wind, rain and depth of water.

In January 2003 it disappeared from the estuary but was found again in a marsh. An incoming tide had taken it up a creek, where it stayed for five weeks. The equinox tide of March 19 2003 was high enough to float it back to the estuary where it continued its movement back and forth 3 or 4 kilometres each move.

The wooden boulder was last seen in June 2003 on a sandbank near Ynys Giftan. All creeks and marshes have been searched so it can, only be assumed it has made its way to the sea. It is not lost. It is wherever it is.

Obviously we know what has happened to it — it's been scooped up by a reclusive oil tycoon to adorn his secret garden like a pilfered Grecian kore. Resting on a pedestal, accumulating monetary value, periodically acting the part of a showpiece to entertain guests.

David Nash - Wooden Boulder

David Nash - Wooden Boulder

David Nash - Wooden Boulder

It would be unsurprising to hear someone remark that the boulder is at the mercy of the elements, although we're more apt to say that it is the river that is at the mercy of this artifact, under the weight of human agency, and of Nash's relentless gaze and choreographic machinations.

The river turned into a Picturesque folly; the passing of time, the same physical forces that smooth out rocks and bend rivers turned into a constructed view.

  • Anonymous
  • April 24, 2008 at 12:22:00 PM CDT
  • Fantastic narrative!

  • Anonymous
  • April 24, 2008 at 4:24:00 PM CDT
  • 'Wildwood', an excellent book by the late Roger Deakin, has a chapter on Nash and the boulder.

  • Anonymous
  • April 25, 2008 at 4:58:00 AM CDT
  • I was going to point out the Deakin book also - a great explanation of the boulder's journey.


  • Plinius
  • April 27, 2008 at 4:26:00 AM CDT
  • The Summer 1997 edition of 'Modern Painters' included a piece on Nash by nature writer Richard Mabey. At that point the boulder was near the junction with the River Dwyryd, 'one storm away from release into the river and then the Irish Sea... The sense of an epic voyage already hangs about it, even though it has moved little more than 200 yards in two decades.'

  • Unknown
  • August 31, 2012 at 11:26:00 PM CDT
  • I watched the video of the Boulder's journey in the Kew Garden exhibit. I would love to see it again. Anyone know where it could be found online?

  • Anonymous
  • November 6, 2012 at 5:21:00 AM CST
  • saw David Nash's @ KEW just yesterday. Watching the video it somehow touched something in my heart as a mother and became a kind of a silent dialoge with my son: God brought you into my life, you became a part of me to take care of, to love and look out for; sometimes being able to follow your steps, other times feeling of loosing sight of you; happy to feel you closer again.... like a game, coming and going till the day, when it's time to let you take THE big step out into the 'deep waters' entrusting you into THOSE HANDS who had brought you into my life, lent you to me for about 25 years .... in the first place.
    God bless you and keep you.....

  • Anonymous
  • June 19, 2013 at 11:03:00 AM CDT
  • Last week, in North Wales, saw the film about the wooden boulder's journey , long in time and distance. Immensely touching and very beautiful. I keep thinking about it. David.

  • Anonymous
  • June 21, 2013 at 6:56:00 PM CDT
  • "It is not lost - it is where it is." - a profound comment that might touch us all, for whatever reason. ['It' for 'He' / 'It' for 'She'.] Would that we relate the sentiment to human beings, perhaps.
    Grand journey... wherever!
    For whatever (in peace)!

  • Unknown
  • August 29, 2013 at 4:00:00 PM CDT
  • Is it back on display in the Afon Dwyryd gallery? Is it a replica or the real McCoy?

Post a Comment —
Comments on posts older than a week are moderated —

—— Newer Post Older Post —— Home