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Community & Business

12 October, 2022


Nyngan has the Big Bogan, Goulburn has the Big Merino, and adding to that list, Armatree is officially home to the ‘Big ArmaTree’.

By Emily Middleton

“Something like this has never quite been done before, and I’m not sure if it’ll ever be done again,” laughed Gilgandra shire deputy mayor Ash Walker, at the enormity of the structure.

In a different line of ‘big’ things, the Armatree Memorial Precinct aims to bring tourists and locals alike together to learn about the village’s history, and admire the work of local hands.

Located 50 metres from Armatree Hotel, the precinct includes history boards, a cenotaph, and the big tree. While these may not necessarily be new structures, being in place for over a year now, the official opening of the precinct was held on Thursday, October 6 after the final signage was put into place.

The precinct was created from hours of brainstorming by the Armatree Progress Association, with artist Margaret Windeyer designing the tree, and the team at Central West Machining and Engineering making the dreams a reality.

“There’s a couple of sculptures around the world where part of the idea and appeal is the shadow, and the way it changes at different times of the day. And that’s what the ArmaTree does,” said local artist Margaret Windeyer.

“[Committee member] Jenny Bradley rang me to ask me if I’d put in an idea for a tree, she told me about the project and how they had been given a grant and I said ‘I’ll have a think’. Like all good researchers these days I went on the internet to see what else has been done as trees.

“I was told it was going to be made from steel, and I just came up with the idea from there.”

After submitting her design and a scale model, the Armatree Progress Association committee selected Ms Windeyer’s design.

“It was pretty amazing, I am really honoured,” she said.

But large scale projects aren’t new to Ms Windeyer. Over the years, the high school art teacher has worked on backdrops for school productions, all the way through to designing the western district exhibit at the Sydney Royal Easter Show.

“I’ve been doing that since 2014 [Easter show]. Large scale stuff like that, while it’s a totally different medium to the tree, it’s also not that different.

“I love working in 3D. Whether that is clay, cardboard, wire, even recycled materials; I’ve always been drawn to it, it adds an amazing extra element. Ever since I can remember I’ve always drawn and created art.”

The tree stands tall, with a plague just nearby which reads:

The Big ArmaTree Erected in 2022, symbolic of a living tree, the sculpture represents this active and vibrant community. Just as a tree puts down roots that hold it in place, so have the people who have chosen Armatree and the surrounding district as their home.

The truck represents the strength of a small, yet thriving community who work together, and the spread of the branches depicts how each person goes their own way in life but are still part of the whole.

The canopy, with its pattern of the leaves, gives shade and shelter for all and the continual shift of shadows with the passage of sun represent how nothing stays the same in a unique community where every person has a place.

The Big ArmaTree project was developed with the Armatree Progress Association. Artist concept by Margaret Windeyer.

The committee was formed through village people and local property owners, looking to promote their home.

Jenny Bradley said that the reason people were willing to get together and brainstorm ideas, was because it was all “community-based, community minded, and community beautification” involved. Shirley Marks from the Gilgandra Historical Society played a major role in putting together the history boards, and was recognised for her hard work.

“It’s all about promoting our little village at Armatree, and making it a destination. Something to drive off the highway to have a look at, and learn about the social, and agricultural history,” said Ms Bradley.

With the help from the three levels of government, the project was able to go ahead. The village beautification project had over $95,000 injected into Armatree from the state government, through round two of the stronger counts communities fund, and the shire parks program respectively.

Over $70,000 was invested into the project for the landscaping, under round one of the federal governments Local Roads and Community Infrastructure program. Both NSW minister for agriculture Dugald Saunders, and federal member for Parkes Mark Coulton helped officially open the precinct.

“Today’s an example of the three levels of government working together with the community, and that’s how it should be,” said Mr Coulton.

“This area has a real reputation and it’s great for visitors to call in, but it’s also people I’m talking to here today, there’s a great amount of pride locally to have it. I think its incredibly clever the design of it, it’s just beautiful.”

Mr Saunders also congratulated the committee on their determination and commitment to the project.

“The idea was to have something that’s a little bit different for Armatree. It’s a well-known spot, mainly because of the pub these days, but over the years it’s had lots of different parts.

“And that’s what the history boards are about. And the tree, everyone who comes to Armatree can go ‘hey! Armatree!’” said Mr Saunders.

“People are always looking for different tourism activities and experiences. There are trails for art and big things, and I think this will fit in well. I mean its not the biggest tree ever, it’s still pretty big. Once you see the tree, you see the stories, what Armatree has been, and what Armatree is now.”

The committee that put the project together consisted of Barry Malone, Ted Charnley, Sally Beveridge, Garry Fordham, Jenny Bradley, Sara Roche, Mark Morris, and Sarah Fardell.

The official opening was held on Thursday, October 6, 2022, and was followed by morning tea provided by Armatree CWA.

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