A former tree surgeon has turned artist to hand-carve these intricate models.

Rob Heard, 47, from Somerset, creates the ‘bough houses’ from Leylandii, a tree that has no real use once felled.

Heard hit on the idea of creating the sculptures as a way of staving off boredom after he injured his wrist in a car accident that left him unable to work for six months. Each bough house can take up to 400 or 500 hours to build and is unique.

He said, ‘I wanted to make them from Leylandii because as a tree surgeon I knew they were a thug of a tree with little or no use once felled. I started making the Bough Houses for my daughters to play with and they are very much for the kids. I love it when we have taken the sculptures to fairs and children rush up and start touching them.

Their parents are always screaming for them not to touch them. But I want them to be art you can play with.’ Heard said he takes his inspiration from the rolling countryside surrounding his home on the edge of Exmoor. The boughs of wood used for the houses are cut from local trees found lying in the fields close to his home.

Every aerial walkway or staircase leads to a room - there are no dead-ends - and every turret and tower can be reached. The individual elements of the sculptures are hand cut or carved and fixed using pins and glue - right down to the last roof tile.

In 2005 new rules were introduced about the dreaded Leylandii which, if left unattended, can soar to huge heights.

Leylandii owners now can face fines of up to £1,000 if they fail to cut down their high hedge when ordered to. New legislation means local authorities can intervene in disputes over ‘unreasonably high’ hedges, whereas previously they had been largely powerless.