Model village with Italian landmarks, including a 1.8m Rialto Bridge, hidden in the Welsh forest

0

A very small Italy! Model village with Italian landmarks, including the 1.8m Rialto Bridge and a mini Leaning Tower of Pisa, hidden in the forest of Wales

  • Over 30 miniatures of Italy’s iconic landmarks have been discovered in a forest in Gwynedd, North WalesW
  • Magical ‘Little Italy’ was created for over 25 years by the late chicken farmer Mark Bourne and his wife Muriel
  • Now gardener Jonathan Fell is helping to restore the small buildings before they are overrun by vegetation

Advertisement

A magical model village of Italian monuments faces a struggle for survival after it was discovered crumbling and overgrown in a Welsh forest.

The stunning collection of over 30 iconic buildings and structures includes a 6-foot Rialto Bridge from Venice, a small Duomo from Florence, and a miniature Leaning Tower from Pisa.

It was lovingly crafted for over 25 years by the late chicken farmer Mark Bourne and his wife Muriel next to their 19th century cottage near the village of Corris in Gwynedd, North Wales.

But the collection hidden in the countryside is in danger of decay after being reclaimed by nature and falling into disrepair.

A miniature model of Tempietto in San Pietro in Montorio, Rome (left) and a 1.8m Rialto Bridge viewed from Venice (right)

A miniature model of Tempietto in San Pietro in Montorio, Rome (left) and a 1.8m Rialto Bridge viewed from Venice (right)

The Little Italy Trust has now been established to save the tribute to Italian architecture established by Mr Bourne after his frequent trips abroad to his beloved Italy.

He returned home with sketchbooks full of drawings and spent the next six weeks using chicken wire and mortar to build his creations.

farmer Bourne would also recycle dumped items – and use an old washing kettle to form the dome of his Tempietto.

Before his death in 2009, Mr Bourne said: ‘Italy is a beautiful but impossible mistress – and Wales is the woman I’d like to leave.’

A model of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence overlooks the Welsh valleys of Gwynedd

A model of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence overlooks the Welsh valleys of Gwynedd

The structures are made of chicken wire and mortar, as well as salvaged items from Mr Bournene's farm

The structures are made of chicken wire and mortar, as well as salvaged items from Mr Bournene’s farm

An intricate model of Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo, Venice, is hidden behind ivy in the Welsh forest

An intricate model of Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo, Venice, is hidden behind ivy in the Welsh forest

A representation of the Italian scene, built into a small hill as much of the Italian landscape is in real life

A representation of the Italian scene, built into a small hill as much of the Italian landscape is in real life

The village of miniature monuments is decorated with small versions of famous Italian statues, now covered with moss

The village of miniature monuments is decorated with small versions of famous Italian statues, now covered with moss

Orchard gardener Jonathan Fell, who once worked as a designer at the Royal Pavilion in Brighton, helps rescue the models.

He said: ‘In Welsh terms, these are a national treasure. We may have a decade to stabilize them before they are lost forever.

‘I use white lime as mortar. It leaves white cobwebs over repaired structures, but over time these will turn green and fade.

Arches in orange mortar that could represent the Portico di San Luca of Bologna.  A conservation 'fingerprint' must be recorded so that the original designs are preserved

Arches in orange mortar that could represent the Portico di San Luca of Bologna. A conservation ‘fingerprint’ must be recorded so that the original designs are preserved

Visitors are asked to stay away from the site while work is underway - but it is believed the buildings will remain open to the public in the long run

Visitors are asked to stay away from the site while work is underway – but it is believed the buildings will remain open to the public in the long run

The Little Italy Trust has now been established to save the models, a tribute to Italian architecture was established by Mr Bourne after his frequent trips abroad to his beloved Italy

The Little Italy Trust has now been established to save the models, a tribute to Italian architecture was established by Mr Bourne after his frequent trips abroad to his beloved Italy

Jonathan now has eight permanent volunteers and four part-timers working to save the structures that are crumbling

Jonathan now has eight permanent volunteers and four part-timers working to save the structures that are crumbling

Orchard gardener Jonathan Fell said the farmer's work is now a 'national treasure' and should be respected as such

Orchard gardener Jonathan Fell said the farmer’s work is now a ‘national treasure’ and should be respected as such

“It’s important that we leave a preservation fingerprint so we know exactly what has been done, while staying true to the original designs.”

Jonathan now has eight regular volunteers and four part-timers working to save the structures.

Visitors are asked to stay away from the site during the work.

Advertisement

.