THE Chiltern Sculpture Trail in the woods above Watlington will be closed and the land cleared within a month as funding for the project has dried up after 17 years.

Sculpture Trust chairman John Hoole said: "We're all extremely sad having tried to maintain it against the flow of arts funding.

"It's been a significant feature of the landscape for 17 years but we have to clear the site by the end of this year."

Several of the 20 sculptures will be sold at auction at 10am on Wednesday, December 5, at the Watcombe Manor sale room, in Ingham Lane, Watlington.

The trail, which is free and open to the public 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year, has cost around £25,000 a year to run.

The money has gone on insurance, maintenance and on commissioning new works.

Mr Hoole added: "Arts money is being squeezed by the Government and we were not lucky enough to attract continued funding.

"So we are faced with running out of funds and we have to close down.

"Our agreement with the landowners, Forest Enterprise, means we have to clear the land and there is no-one to take over the running of the sculpture trail."

He said a very vague estimate of the number of people visiting the site is around 80,000 a year but as there is no entrance gate it is impossible to give accurate figures.

The trail in Cowleaze Wood, Christmas Common, was founded in 1990 and artists from a range of disciplines were commissioned to create new works which would spark debate or inquiry from the visitor.

The artists used a broad range of materials.

The trust has no salaried employees and it was run from a private house in Oxford.