This is the first column in a new series that links design to an issue of current affairs. This week it’s the recent floods on the Lachlan River, and we showcase Sculpture Down the Lachlan (SDL), a series of new large sculptures that you can visit along Lachlan Valley Way that closely follows the winding river (and inundated by water in the recent floods).

The SDL trail was the vision of Australian artist, Rosie Wingrove Johnston, who wanted to create an art trail of international calibre in order to generate tourism and diversify the rural economy, in particular to foster visual arts throughout the Forbes Shire, to grow the visitor economy and to promote the Lachlan Valley region as a premier tourism destination.

There are many more amateur artists in the Shire than you might imagine, and a flourishing Forbes Arts Society. Within months the community took hold of this concept whole heartedly, and critically searched across Australia for the best contemporary sculptors. At first the sculptures were smaller and installed in the Forbes CBD (up to 10 by now). 

The locals then turned to making large sculptures and pitched in money and expertise to make the first one appropriately called, ‘Amazing’.  SDL is now a 100km sculpture trail between Forbes and Condobolin – envisaged as a "bush version of Sydney's famous Sculpture by the Sea”. The name pays tribute to Banjo Paterson's line about meeting Clancy of the Overflow "down the Lachlan".

The final vision is for 14 large scale sculptures over 100 kilometres, each one not far off the Lachlan Valley Way. It was envisaged to be finished this year, but Covid and other issues have meant that only 7 are complete and installed, with another two made, but yet to be installed with travel restrictions.  

The SDL is funded by the Forbes Arts Society, Forbes Shire Council, Lachlan Shire Council, Evolution Mining and $7.2 million from ‘Boosting the Lachlan Valley Economy Art Project’, part of the NSW Government’s Restart NSW program through the NSW Regional Growth – Environment and Tourism Development Fund.

Bird Hides

As you leave Forbes for the trail your first stop is ‘Gum Swamp’, a former sewage pond that is now a valuable environmental wetland teeming with birds. Hence the two ‘bird hides’ that afford a close up view of myriad species.


On the way to the swamp bird hide you pass Varanus, a goanna, a steel sculpture by Glen Star from Alstonville in 2020. It is based on a lace monitor or goanna, a dhuliiny that can grow to 2.5m. The goanna is of special significance to local Wiradjuri people as a totamic animal, and a food source particularly during tough times.

Road Kill

 A recent sculpture by Jimmy Rix of Malmsbury in Corten Steel. The Interpretive plaque explains: “People often complain about the damage done to cars after hitting a kangaroo when travelling. Have we ever stopped to think about this from a kangaroo point of view? We may sustain a dent to the car or broken headlight, while the kangaroo suffers major injuries or worse, loses their life. This sculpture sees the kangaroo taking revenge on its nemesis”. 


The sculpture that started it all: individual painted metal letters, designed by local Rosie Johnston and fabricated by the Forbes Community, each one made and installed by local farmers, tradespeople and engineers who volunteered their time. Designed to be “a word that would get its feet wet in floods, say G'day to the passing cattle and drovers in the dry times and glisten in the frosty mornings on a sunny winter's day...that would be amazing!”


The remnants of a timber ‘water tower’ by Stephen King from Walcha in 2020. “We live on a dry continent and our water resources will be under even more pressure as our population increases and our weather patterns change … advances in technology continue to change the way we store and use water and the water tower has almost been made redundant. 'Tower' represents our need to control our resources … old water towers stand as sculptural relics and reminders of what we leave behind in our attempts to meet the challenges of life on earth”. 

Bird in Hand

Made entirely from stainless steel links by Mike Van Dam from the Gold Coast in 2021. Captures the importance of the wetlands “which act as a natural flood mitigators and recycle nutrients into the soil, filter water and most importantly provide a habitat for a diverse range of wildlife … a reminder that we need to preserve and protect this important environment and its future, including all creatures such as native birds, as of which are 'in our hands'”.

Heart of the Country

An acknowledgement of the injustices endured by the local Wiradjuri people in a one tonne Corten Steel sculpture by Damian Vick from Melbourne, 2021. Six metres tall in a bold stance with a keen focus. “It cuts a potent and deadly impression whilst making the inescapable suggestion that he is searching for something unseen, lost along the way, relegated to the past … explores the notions of strength, vulnerability and connection”. 

The ‘heart’ is made from the rocks collected from the hill behind, literally country in the heart. “Standing as testament to the collective resilience and determination of all indigenous Australians, and their profound spiritual connection with the land”. 


 A sculpture by David Ball from 2020. Designed to emulate the movement of the Lachlan through plains and gum trees. As suggested by the name it invites people to wander through its overlapping curves.

From the interpretative statement: “The faceted construction references the texture and rhythm of the trees and geology of the district and evokes another universal theme lodged deep in our ancient collective psyche, the serpent or flowing stream that represents the lifeblood of the nation”.

A map to encourage you to visit the sculptures.


Thanks to Kim Muffet of Girragirra for the trip and commentary along the trail. 

Research and all photos by Tone Wheeler. Views expressed solely those of the author, not held or endorsed by A+D. Comments may be addressed to [email protected]