09 May 2024

Planet Walk sculptures in
Tamworth Castle Grounds:
a walk around the galaxy

Walenty Pytel’s Planet Walk in Tamworth Castle Grounds marked the millennium in 2000 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

Patrick Comerford

I was writing yesterday about Fritz Steller’s paired mural ‘Communication and Documentation’ at the entrance to Tamworth Library. But Tamworth has impressive outdoors works of sculpture too, including Luke Perry’s sculpture of Æthelflæd, near the train station (26 July 2023), and Walenty Pytel’s ‘Anchor’ sculpture in Saint Editha’s Square, commemorating Colin Grazier (23 February 2023).

The Polish-born sculptor Walenty Pytel also created the Planet Walk in the castle grounds, which was commissioned in 2000 to mark the millennium. The Planet Walk was the brainchild of Tamworth’s Town Twinning Association, and it is based on a similar trail created in Bad Laasphe, Tamworth’s twin town in North Rhine-Westphalia in Germany.

Walenty Pytel designed the trail with the sun and nine planets in his studio in Ross-on-Wye. The distances between each of the planets was designed to relatively represent the distance between the planets in the solar system, to give some concept of the distance between us and our neighbouring – or not so neighbouring – planets.

Some of the original planets now seem to be missing. The trail takes 15-25 minutes to walk, and is easily followed by young and old alike, by with red rockets laid into the ground leading a trail around the galaxy.

Walenty Pytel is an internationally renowned artist and is recognised as a leading metal sculptor of birds and beasts. He created the Colin Grazier statue in Saint Editha’s Square, Tamworth, in 2002. His work also appears at the entrance to Birmingham International Airport and outside the House of Commons.

Earth is one of the planets in Walenty Pytel’s Planet Walk in the Tamworth Castle Grounds (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

Pytel was born in 1941 in German-occupied Poland during World War II. Because of his blond features, the Nazis kidnapped him from his mother Jadwiga Pytel and had him adopted by a Gestapo officer and his childless wife. However, his mother escaped from a prison camp, snatched him from outside the couple’s home and fled Poland with him across the Alps to Italy.

He came to England at the age of five and later studied graphic design at Hereford College of Arts. After working in a publishing studio in London, he opened two studios in Hereford in 1963, initially focusing on paper sculptures for window displays but turned to metal two years later.

His first public commission came in 1965, when Hereford City Council paid £100 for Christmas decorations. Three stainless-steel angels arranged in a triangle for the centre of High Town and 400 thin metal stars were erected in the city. The works have been lost since then.

His creations are often inspired by nature and his work includes the Jubilee Fountain in New Palace Yard, Westminster, ‘Take Off’ at Birmingham Airport, and one of Europe’s largest metalwork sculptures, ‘The Fossor’ (1979), at the headquarters of JCB in Rocester, Staffordshire.

Pytel was commissioned to create four huge steel eagles for the Portuguese football club Benfica in 2005. A year later, his career was disrupted after a fall in 2006 resulted in a loss of memory. However, at 83, he has continued to receive commissions for public sculptures and he continues to live near Ross-on-Wye.

The trail around Walenty Pytel’s Planet Walk in Tamworth takes 15-25 minutes to walk (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

Daily prayer in Easter 2024:
40, 9 May 2024

The Ascension depicted in a fresco in the ceiling in the parish church in the village of Piskopianó in Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

Patrick Comerford

Easter is a 50-day season that continues until the Day of Pentecost (19 May 2024). This week began with the Sixth Sunday of Easter (Easter VI), and today is Ascension Day (9 May 2024). Easter was celebrated in the Greek Orthodox Church on Sunday (5 May), and today is known in the Orthodox Church as ‘Bright Thursday.’

Throughout this Season of Easter, my morning reflections each day include the daily Gospel reading, the prayer in the USPG prayer diary, and the prayers in the Collects and Post-Communion Prayer of the day.

I have yet another medical appointment in Stony Stratford later this morning, but I still hope to get to the Ascension Day Eucharist in All Saints’ Church, Calverton. Before this day begins, I am taking some quiet time this morning to give thanks, for reflection, prayer and reading in these ways:

1, today’s Gospel reading;

2, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary;

3, the Collects and Post-Communion prayer of the day.

The Ascension depicted in a window in Saint Mary and Saint Giles Church, Stony Stratford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

Luke 24: 12-15 (NRSVA):

44 Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you – that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.’ 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46 and he said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.’

50 Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; 53 and they were continually in the temple blessing God.

The Ascension depicted in the East Window designed by Alexander Gibbs in the chapel of Keble College, Oxford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

Today’s Prayers (Ascension Day, Thursday 9 May 2024):

The theme this week in ‘Pray With the World Church,’ the Prayer Diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel), is ‘Thy Kingdom Come.’ This theme was introduced on Sunday with some Reflections.

The USPG Prayer Diary today (Ascension Day, 9 May 2024) invites us to pray:

Holy Father, as you raised your Son to heaven, may we embrace the knowledge that he will remain with us evermore.

The Collect:

Grant, we pray, almighty God
that as we believe your only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ
to have ascended into the heavens,
so we in heart and mind may also ascend
and with him continually dwell;
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Post Communion Prayer:

God our Father,
you have raised our humanity in Christ
and have fed us with the bread of heaven:
mercifully grant that, nourished with such spiritual blessings,
we may set our hearts in the heavenly places;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Additional Collect:

Risen Christ,
you have raised our human nature to the throne of heaven:
help us to seek and serve you,
that we may join you at the Father’s side,
where you reign with the Spirit in glory,
now and for ever.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

The Ascension depicted in a tile frieze designed by William Butterfield in All Saints’ Church, Margaret Street, London (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org