INTERNATIONALLY renowned sculptor Walenty Pytel’s career took off after his first major commission, the landmark ‘Woodpecker’ outside Bulmers’ former ciderworks at Hereford, took the county and the wider world by storm.

And his Returning Swallows sculpture on the Gloucester Road roundabout in Ledbury is a popular local landmark.

Now the prolific artist, has produced ‘Kingfisher and Minnow’ in galvanised steel for Hereford Cider Museum to mark the milestone. At the age of 77, Polish-born Walenty, who lives near Ross-on-Wye, shows no signs of slowing down. Instead he has bigger fish to fry with ambitious plans for a “gigantic” piece of work that could put the colossal Angel of the North into the shade.

The nation’s favourite celebrity half-a-century ago, broadcaster and wildlife expert Sir Peter Scott unveiled the impressive Woodpecker, a moment that launched the sculptor’s career.

Walenty’s work is widely sought around the world and he is amused when collectors tell him they are hanging on to their pieces.

“They tell me they are waiting for me to ‘snuff it’ so they will become even more valuable!” he explained.

When Hereford Cider Museum commissioned the latest sculpture to mark the iconic Woodpecker’s anniversary, it was thought this might make history as his final work.

“Now I’m thinking of something really gigantic and impressive,” he said. Using drawings he has made of three birds in flight, he is considering making a vast sculpture and siting it beside the M50 near Ross.

“This would be a welcome to Herefordshire, bigger than the Angel of the North and would show that this is an important place.”

He praises the Bulmers family and ciderworks at Hereford for giving him his big break in 1969. “All my life everybody has helped me,” he said. As a thank you to Bulmers he has produced the Kingfisher and Minnow at a bargain cost of less than £8,000.

His zest for working is undiminished and Walenty believes his craftsmanship has improved. “I do better now than in my early days.”

He owes this ability to his strict regime of only working two days each week. “Lots who do welding can hardly see at 40, but my eyesight is still good,” he said. In his spare time he relishes salmon fishing on the Wye, and the Tay in Scotland, and in order to smoke his catch he has combined work and hobby by constructing his own smokehouse.

The Kingfisher and Minnow is to be put in place this summer.

*Gallery tours and visits to the Pytel workshop are led by Walenty and his wife Mary on certain days of the year. For more information go to or call 07787 184644