A MAGNIFICENT new statue was officially launched in Dursley last week.

The 13 foot high sculpture stands at the entrance to the Vale Community Hospital allotments and greets visitors on their way to the site’s garden plots.

Although it was finished in June, a ceremony marking the completion of the carving took place on Thursday, November 1.

Dr Simon Opher, a GP at Dursley’s May Lane surgery, and Dursley mayor Cllr Neil Grecian jointly pulled a red ribbon which was tied around the statue and declared the new gateway to the allotments well and truly open.

The plots, which were dug on NHS-owned land, were the brainchild of Dr Opher, who believes that allotments offer psychological and medical benefits to patients. They are gardened by members of the community, with some offered to NHS patients.

Dr Opher said: "The sculpture is the culmination and another part of the Vale Allotments scheme, where 42 beds - and counting - have been leased to local residents and patients to improve exercise and improve diet, as well as getting people to work together and therefore reduce social isolation."

Vale Hospital won an Arts & Health Award to help fund the project and commissioned the sculpture to enhance and ‘mark’ the allotments with a carving all about life giving vegetables and growing.

Artist Natasha Houseago worked on the carving, on site, in public view, throughout the summer.

She also ran workshops so allotment holders and hospital patients could join in too.

At Thursday’s launch event, their smaller carvings, of vegetables and seeds, were placed in the hospital’s quadrangle.

Ms Houseago said : “My strong memories of the project are the daily chats with the allotment holders, and the interesting conversations with the patients and people of Dursley.

“One man, who was waiting to see if he was still in remission from cancer, said that it was a great comfort at such a stressful time to be able to come over and watch me carve.”