When I started this blog five years ago, I was looking forward to writing inspiring travel stories about the world’s great cities and beauty spots. Think Venice, Hong Kong, Halong Bay and Lake Bled. One place I didn’t think I’d ever write about is Burnley, but that was before I’d been to the Singing Ringing Tree.
While staying with friends Ben and Jo near Preston, Jo said it had always been one of her dreams to see “a whistling tree” near Burnley. Why not, we all thought?
So having made the picturesque drive along the M65, we found the Singing Ringing Tree, high on a hillside overlooking the Lancashire mill town of Burnley.
We had left Preston to slate grey skies and drizzle, but by the time we pulled into the visitor car park, snow started to fall. We could clearly see Burnley town centre and its football stadium Turf Moor (affectionately known as Turd Moor by rival fans) below us.
The snow continued to fall – I felt like I was part of Captain Scott’s doomed Antarctic expedition, and said to Kat “I may be some time”, as she chose wisely to stay in the car.
Within five minutes, a major snow blizzard was blowing horizontally in our faces and visibility was so poor, we couldn’t see anything other than an odd metal tree and a background of white.
The Singing Ringing Tree sculpture has been on this hill since 2006, and is part of the Panopticons project to “erect a series of 21st century landmarks across East Lancashire”. As well as Burnley’s Panopticon, there is The Atom in Pendle, Colourfields in Blackburn and The Halo in Rossendale to see if I’m lucky enough to visit the area again. The idea is to entice people into the countryside to see these sculptures and enjoy panoramic views at the same time.
From a distance it looks like one of those flat-topped trees you might see in the African savanna. But up close it looks ridiculous, and nothing like a tree. It’s made of tubes of galvanised steel, which are supposed to sing and ring in the wind, but on our visit, they were howling like a pack of wolves in the storm-force winds.
I have been complimented on the quality of my photos in the past, and make an effort to take nice images that complement my writing. But I must apologise for the lack of pics here – my camera clicking finger went numb in the frozen conditions soon after I’d taken two photos of the tree looking like something from Alien.
Burnley were playing Chelsea at Turd Moor that afternoon, and I wasn’t sure how Chelsea’s pampered millionaires would fancy it in the snowy north. As it happened, they were lucky to get away with a point, and their manager Antonio Conte looked eager to get back to civilisation a.s.a.p once the final whistle had blown.
If you fancy experiencing the Singing Ringing Tree for yourself, be prepared to share the road up the hill with stray sheep going walkies and watch out for cattle grids.
And wrap up warm – preferably in ski jacket, gloves and mask.