A Fabergé chip off the old block

THE Fabergé name is synonymous with exquisitely and expensively decorated eggs.

Now Sarah Faberg of that family has turned her attention to an oak branch– creating a sculpture which will be sold to raise money for tree preservation work at Castle Howard.

She is among a catalogue of personalities involved, including Pink Floyd musician Dave Gilmour and some of television's big names, including actress Joanna Lumley and TV news presenter Jon Snow.

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Other famous people who have agreed to help are ex-BBC supremo Greg Dyke, the godfather of British Pop Art, Sir Peter Blake, and Dame Janet Baker, one of England's most famous mezzo sopranos, who was born in Hatfield, near Doncaster

Project organiser Andrew Varah said the unique pieces would be very collectable.

He kept the rules very simple. They could be painted, gilded, carved or embellished. There were no rules on style, the only stipulation being that the final result must fit in its box.

So far more than 70 pieces have been completed and are to be auctioned off next month.

Any member of the public may place a bid for a completed branch, which is only 15cms long and each is signed by the creator.

Mr Varah, chairman of the Liveries Wood Group, which comprises the Worshipful Companies of Carpenters, Furniture-Makers, Joiners & Ceilers, Turners and Upholders, said he hopes the auction will raise thousands of pounds for The Arboretum Trust (Kew at Castle Howard).

This is home to 6,500 trees and plants and needs more resources for the nursery and propagation facilities to preserve the newly found and rare species.

Mr Varah, a furniture maker, says it has never been more important to support English woodland, with Sudden Oak Death Disease threatening to hit the English Oak as severely as Dutch Elm Disease did decades ago.

He said: "This is a one-off fundraising event which I have been working on since January and it could raise 10,000 to 20,000.

"Already we have raised in excess of 6,000 just in donations, simply by approaching individuals. I expect some of the bids to go into several hundreds of pounds for some of the pieces.''

Professor Sir Ron Cooke DSc, AcSS, Chairman of Trustees of The Arboretum Trust, said: "The major needs are for the nursery and the propagation facilities, and also the preservation of new and rare species, so that they can be saved for generations to come."

All the transformed branches will be displayed at Wild About Wood, at the Arboretum at Castle Howard on September 11-12. Then they will be on show at Bonhams before being auctioned on September 16 at 6pm in their New Bond Street headquarters. Only a few pieces will be auctioned on the night.

It will be possible to bid on line for the other pieces. Further

details about the auction can be found on the website www.branching-out.co.uk through www.i-bidder.com H.R.H.

All the livery companies have historically made their living from wood and this year their charitable foundations have returned to their roots to save England's trees with this project named Branching Out.

The Arboretum Trust's Patron is The Prince of Wales and The Castle Howard Arboretum Trust (CHAT) is an independent charitable trust formed in June 1997 by joint agreement between Castle Howard and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

The opening of the collections in 1999, Castle Howard's tercentenary year, marked the Howard family's 300 year commitment to horticultural excellence.

The hope is that the new arboretum develops from a gem into a jewel in Castle Howard's and Kew's crown.

The arboretum at Castle Howard represents an exciting developments in horticulture and botany. Planting began in 1975, with the idea of creating one of the most comprehensive collections of hardy woody plants in Europe.

It opened to the public as part of the celebrations of Castle Howard's tercentenary year in 1999.

HOW STARS LOGGED ON FOR YTREE FUND

Sarah Faberg, whose oak artwork is shown above, is just one of a large number of famous people Branching Out organiser Andrew Varah was able to call upon when he got the idea of auctioning celebrity wood carving exhibits.

Mr Varah, a high-class furniture maker and chairman of the Liveries Wood Group, began thumbing through his contacts book and those of his colleagues for illustrious people to approach.

He said: ''I knew David Gilmour as I have been making furniture for him

for 12 to 15 years while Joanna Lumley knows my family, so I was able to write to her asking if she would be interested.

"A female colleague, Penrose Halson, is a friend of Sarah Faberg and Sir Ron Cooke, (Chairman of Trustees of The Arboretum Trust), knew Greg Dyke and Janet Baker.''