A LIFE-SIZE wicker rhino has been erected at a Worcestershire school as a farewell present to its retiring headmaster.

John Walker is stepping down as head of Abberley Hall School in Great Witley after 18 years.

Students at the independent school created the African rhino in tribute to Mr Walker, who is a keen conservationist.

Mr Walker, who steps down this term,said: “I have always had an interest in conservation matters, particularly wildlife issues, having previously lived in Kenya. I asked for this sculpture to be created and I am delighted with it. I hope it will raise the profile of the plight of endangered species such as the rhino.

“The project also offered our children a unique opportunity to work on such a large scale and learn the art of willow weaving."

The rhino took a week to create with the help of Pershore wicker artists, Paul and Steph Simmons, of Willowcraft and Woodlands.

It is three and a half metres long and one and a half metres tall, and there is now a collection box at the school for visitors to make donations to the World Wildlife Fund.

“My years at Abberley have been extremely satisfying – I will miss the children, the team of staff and the unique atmosphere of this wonderful school," Mr Walker added.

Mr Walker will now spend time in France with his wife, Janie, where he will produce wine at his vineyard and enjoy long dog walks.

Chairman of Abberley Hall’s governors, the Honourable David Legh, said: "Quite apart from the outstanding academic, artistic and sporting success enjoyed by the school during his time as headmaster, John has been the instigator of a large number of important initiatives.

"These include the building of the indoor swimming pool, the science block, the purchase of the school chalet in France, a new teaching department for younger children and the award-winning conversion of old greenhouses into nine staff apartments in the walled garden.

"His legacy will adorn the school for many years to come."

Mr Walker will be succeeded as headmaster by Will Lockett.