LONDON The world's largest sculpture of a human body is being carved out of the British landscape using more than a million tonnes of rock and soil left behind by coal-mining.
"Northumberlandia," designed by American landscape architect Charles Jencks, will be nearly half a mile long when it is finished in 2013.
The sculpture, of a woman's body, has already been given the epithet "Goddess of the North' by locals in Northumberland in the far northeast of England, a part of the world that is no stranger to grand man-made projects.
Hadrian's Wall, built by the Romans, massive baronial castles, coalmines, shipyards and the huge Angel of the North sculpture by Antony Gormley, are all features of its landscape.
The best views of Northumberlandia are from the air, but visitors will be able to see her features up close by wandering the four-mile network of paths that run along the curves of her body.
One-and-a-half million tonnes of soil and clay taken from the nearby Shotton surface mine are being used to make the sculpture, which workers have been crafting for around a year.
Harvard-educated designer Jencks, 71, who was born in Fife, Scotland, said: "This is very much like alchemy; turning coal into energy and landscape into art.
"It offers us the opportunity to create art from the necessity of extracting coal."
Northumberlandia is costing around 2 million pounds and is funded by the Banks Group, the UK firm that operates the mine, and the Blagdon Estate, which owns the land.
Blagdon is the family estate of Viscount Ridley, whose son Matt Ridley, 53, said the idea for the sculpture came from a desire to be innovative.
"People have rightly asked why we are doing this," he said. "We could have submitted an application to simply restore the land back to agriculture, but we wanted to do something different.
"We are making a work of art with a bulldozer, rather than a paintbrush."
The sculpture will be at the heart of a public park being built close to the town of Cramlington near Newcastle.
Further details on www.hjbanks.com/northumberlandia/1a_1.htm
(Reporting by Jonathan Gilbert; Editing by Steve Addison)