We were delighted to welcome Bob and Janice English and their friend Mike when they came to visit recently. Bob’s contribution to our Cross of Hope was crucial in getting the project quite literally off the ground.

The design was Minsteracres community member Lya Vollering’s, but getting it from paper to the beautiful glass and wood structure you see today was far from straightforward and, according to Bob, relied on a whole series of coincidences.

“First of all, I lived in Consett then but had never been to Minsteracres – I was introduced to it by a friend and there I met Lya. Then, I happened to know Rena Holford, a very talented glass maker who rose to the challenge of joining this unusual project. And I also had the help and very physical support of my brother Keith, son David and David’s friend Paul to lift it all into place.”

Bob looked at Lya’s drawing and knew that with the figure cut out of the wood it would never be able to support the 64 kilos of glass that circle it. “That size and construction of glass hadn’t been done before,” he remembers. “It was fashioned in quadrants with the coloured pieces laid on resin and toughened glass. As it cooled the resin bonded with the glass to add strength and flexibility.”

Bob also throws light on a feature that puzzles some people who see it. “It is designed as crosses were originally without a head to signify the resurrection – hence the name ‘Cross of Hope’.”

Bob devised a steel frame to encompass the wood and support the formidable weight of glass. Six tons of concrete were sunk into the ground containing 1.5 metre metal rods to which the frame was fixed. The whole was held in place with guy ropes to prevent it from twisting and breaking the glass.

Both Bob and Janice still remember the enormity of the challenge. Janice, who had been with them every step of the way, couldn’t face being there on the day it was lifted into place! Bob sums up what carried them through, “If I hadn’t been involved with this project, I would have missed the challenge, the stress when the glass didn’t arrive, the sleepless nights when my brain wouldn’t stop working, but also the feeling of great happiness when everything came together and a great sense of pride on the day of the blessing.”

We are so glad they stuck with it! Bob’s and Lya’s design has stood the test of time, surviving recent winter storms when even some of our oldest trees succumbed. They were delighted when they visited to be reunited with Lya and able admire together the fruits of their considerable labours.