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July 26 2012

Anyone for a night in the Royston Vasey room?

Hotel plans are submitted at last for Bretton Hall in the middle of the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. In its rooms, The League of Gentleman was hatched. Would guests ever leave?

It's been a long and sometimes nervous wait, but the hole in the middle of the excellent Yorkshire Sculpture Park looks set to be filled at last.

Never as stark a contrast as its notorious counterpart in central Bradford, the empty space of Bretton Hall has nonetheless detracted from the glories of its park, as visitors stare at the unused 18th century grandeur and mutter about recession.

Now a long-awaited planning application has been submitted to Wakefield council by Rushbond PLC for the large and posh hotel which has been talked about ever since Leeds University's famous extension campus moved out in 2007. The document proposes an initial 77 bedrooms in the grade II* listed Georgian house, with 120 in due course. Alongside it would be 39,000 sq ft of offices, rising to 100,000 if all goes well.

The jigsaw still needs a hotelier or spa operator, or investment company, to make the concept a reality, which will be the acid test of whether economic recovery is sufficient to bring the building back to life. Rushbond's managing director Jonathan Maud is optimistic; the scheme comes fully-detailed and costed by architects, down to the restoration of period features; and the catchment is exceptional: visitor numbers at the Sculpture Park top 350,000 a year and the nearby Hepworth Wakefield has beaten its own first-year target five times, with over 500,000.

Maud reckons that 400 lasting jobs will be created by the business park, looking out over fields dotted with Henry Moores and other sculpture in rolling green countryside less than two miles from the M1. For all the travails since the banking crash, his firm has maintained a track record of delivery over its 25 years, most recently the conversion into shops of restaurants of Leeds' Majestic cinema, famously the home of the longest run of the Sound of Music in history.

Bretton Hall was started by the fabulously wealthy Wentworth family whose palaces Wentworth Castle and Wentworth Woodhouse are behemoth landmarks of South Yorkshire, and completed by the Beaumonts who were also never troubled for cash. But its real glory days came under the legendary reign of Sir Alec Clegg as chief education officer of the West Riding, which turned it into a college. The tradition continued when Leeds University took over in 2001.

Alumni are many and various, with much potential for the naming of suites. All three main protagonists in The League of Gentlemen, Steve Pemberton (1989), Mark Gatiss (1989) and Reece Shearsmith (1990), are among them. A night in the Royston Vazey Room would be unforgettable.


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May 22 2012

Magic sisters realise Chelsea Flower Show golden dream

The all-powerful Brontes sweep rivals aside as Yorkshire gets its long-for top medal at last

They tried ever so hard once, and got silver. Then they tried ever so hard again, and got silver again. But this year the Yorkshire garden at Chelsea has finally achieved its ambition, and been awarded a Royal Horticultural Society gold medal.

That's what the biggest and brashest of England's counties naturally expects; (actually – interesting fact - historic Yorkshire also contains England's second-biggest county: the West Riding on its own beats Devon, Lincolnshire and other such rivals). But the organisers made the mistake of not enlisting the magical powers of the Mighty Sisters until now.

In 2010, the garden was themed on rhubarb and custard, picking up the lore and legend of the 'rhubarb-growing triangle' between Wakefield, Pontefract and Leeds. Last year, a rather architectural construction of drystone walls and the like drew on Yorkshire Artists, with references to David Hockney, Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore.

But at last, this year, Charlotte, Emily and Bronte appeared in a dream to Gary Verity, the chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire which organises the garden, and said: "Daft ha'porth. It's us you need."

So it has proved. The massive metropolitan cliché mill grinds out unswerving descriptions of the sisters and their moors as wuthering and howling, but we who live here know better. Charlotte herself wrote of Emily after her death and how:

There is not a knoll of heather, not a branch of fern, not a young bilberry leaf, not a fluttering lark or linnet, but reminds me of her

And Emily carolled in one of her perhaps less original poems:

May flowers are opening
And leaves unfolding free
There are bees in every blossom
And birds in every tree.

Anyway, Verity arose and his staff carried out the ghostly instructions, recreating the 'Bronte bridge' which crosses the Bronte beck by the Bronte waterfalls on the way to Top Withens (aka Wuthering Heights) above the sisters' home village of Haworth. They also crammed in a goodly stock of plants, making the composition more garden than artificial construction. Although the Brontes were not actually very good gardeners themselves, as the Guardian Northerner recently described, they would surely have approved.

Verity says:

The garden has had a non-stop stream of admirers since The Chelsea Flower Show opened but this was the ultimate goal, taking gold back to Yorkshire. This is the third time we've entered and we're delighted to be going home with a gold medal for the first time. We hope to convert thousands of well-wishers into tourists over the course of the week.


 
Tracy Foster, the garden's designer from Leeds, worked closely with the Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth throughout the project, describes how the garden tried to source materials from nearby, including boulders from Dove Stones moor:

The stone is beautiful. We have deliberately not cleaned it so it has aged naturally and it is of the period when the girls would have been walking around the Yorkshire Moors and writing their novels. The stone still has its original lichens and mosses attached which look just perfect in the garden and really give a sense of the beauty and bleakness that epitomise the wonderful moorland landscape.


She is properly over the moon, deservedly:

My first Chelsea and I get gold, it doesn't get much better than this! I'm so proud of what we have achieved. I hope the high profile medal inspires more people to come to Yorkshire to see for themselves the landscape that brought gold to the garden.


 
Always good at linking things, Welcome to Yorkshire has just unveiled a gardens campaign which highlights some of the best gardens to visit in Yorkshire. You can also see three films here which the Guardian Northerner team made last year of the progress of the Art of Yorkshire entry.
 


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December 22 2011

Metal thieves take aluminium rhino from Scarborough

Police are appealing for the return of the sculpture which was taken from the town's sixth-form college

A life-size aluminium rhinoceros sculpture has been stolen from a college in North Yorkshire.

Police are searching scrap metal yards in the hope of finding the figure. The sculpture, made up of aluminium plates, was taken at some point in recent days.

It was designed and made by a former Scarborough Sixth Form College student.

Staff were hoping to make feature of the sculpture which has become a well-known talking point at the college since it was built. It was stolen after it had been left outside during construction work.

Officers have been making inquiries in the area in an effort to locate the sculpture and are appealing to the public to help the investigation.

Police said it would have taken at least two people to lift the structure and a vehicle to remove it. They are appealing for information.

PC Michelle Neighbour, of North Yorkshire Police, said: "The rhino is not something you could just walk off with by yourself, it would have taken at least two or three people to lift and they would have needed a vehicle to transport it away from the college.

"I am appealing to anyone who saw any suspicious activity around the college in the past week to contact the police or the free Crimestoppers line with information.

"I would also appeal to any scrap dealers or anyone who regularly use scrap yards to get in touch if they remember seeing the rhino being weighed in," she added,

It is not the first time that a piece of sculpture has been stolen by metal thieves this week. A heavy bronze by Barbara Hepworth that has been on show in Dulwich park for more than 40 years vanished after metal thieves struck.

Staff at the park were confronted by an empty plinth on Tuesday morning after the thieves apparently broke padlocks at a gate leading onto the South Circular road.

Last week, I accompanied British Transport Police officers on scrapyard raids in Lancashire. Nothing amiss was found during their search of various scrap metal yards.

The problem is exacerbated by the rising cost of metal - the price of copper, for example, has doubled since 2009 to more than £5,000 a tonne. According to an industry estimate, copper theft costs the UK economy £770m a year.

The government is setting up a taskforce, led by the British Transport Police, to tackle metal theft.


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December 09 2011

David Hockney: the East Riding tourist trail starts here

Artist collaborates with Yorkshire tourist board to link sites of his recent paintings. But Brid may not be included, to safeguard his privacy

David Hockney, the godfather of modern British art, is about to start work in a new medium that he has been famously dismissive of in the past. Tourism.

Bridlington-based Hockney is in the process of creating an official tourist trail to a number of sites across his home county of Yorkshire, with a particular focus on those places he has painted in the East Riding's Yorkshire Wolds as part of the Royal Academy exhibition which opens in January.

The move represents a change of heart by Hockney who has been reluctant to promote Yorkshire in the past as he famously does not like crowds of people. This is one of the reasons he settled in Los Angeles, because of the lack of the celebrity-chasing that he experienced in Britain and then Paris in the 1970s.

Even at the press conference to launch next year's Royal Academy exhibition he expressed concern that his paintings might result in an influx of people to the Wolds altering its atmosphere and appeal, especially to him.

However, he is a pragmatist too and he recognises that the David Hockney RA: A Bigger Picture exhibition will put the Yorkshire Wolds on the global map for artists as well as tourists as the bulk of the landscape and film works being exhibited were done in this quiet corner of East Yorkshire.

It is already being talked about as Hockney Country in the art world, just as Suffolk is recognised as Constable Country.

So Britain's most popular living artist has agreed to work with the county's tourist board, Welcome to Yorkshire, to create an official tourist trail, rather than allow unofficial versions or websites to identify incorrectly the sites at which he has worked.

It is not yet known whether he will actively promote the trail himself or just lend his name and copyright to it.

Sites likely to be featured would include the village of Warter where he painted Bigger Trees (which were subsequently chopped down) and Bigger Trees Near Warter (which still exist). Although it will not be part of the Royal Academy exhibition, Bigger Trees remains one of his most famous works from the Wolds, a giant painting made up of 50 canvases measuring 40 feet in width.

Other areas pencilled-in would be Garrowby Hill and Sledmere, both of which inspired re-imagined workings of the landscapes he knows so well, rather than ones painted in the open air such as those at Warter.

The steep valley village of Thixendale, where he has painted Three Trees through the Seasons might also be on the trail, as well as Woldgate Woods, outside the village of Kilham, both of which have a role in the coming exhibition.

However, Bridlington, where he now spends most of his time rather than in Los Angeles, is less likely to be featured, just in case the trail inspires Hockney Hunters intent on finding the ultimate spot on the Hockney Trail. His studio.


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October 31 2011

Heritage prize for the north's only finalist in Lloyd Webber's glitzy new heritage awards

Unpaid workers who have rescued a Leeds church for community use - shifting three full skips of mummified pigeons and their droppings in the process - star in London bash

It's six weeks since the Northerner lamented the lack of finalists from our three regions in Andrew Lloyd Webber's 'English Heritage Angel' awards which celebrate local people's work in protecting historic, interesting or beautiful buildings or landscape.

The fanfare is just that; it doesn't come with funding or the chance to perform in one of the Lord's stage productions, like Connie Fisher who triumphed in How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?

But it draws attention to the project as well as the work of those responsible for the transformation, and that encourages others with money or help in kind to pitch in. And the good news is that our solitary representative among the 16 finalists has...WON!

Yay! Well done the 120 volunteers who are returning the abandoned church of St Margaret of Antioch in Leeds to communal and imaginative use. We ran their prospectus back in September and you can read it here. Better still, get down there and see why they won earlier funding of £700,000 from English Heritage. Maybe you will be volunteer number 121.

The context of these awards is an alarming total of 5,828 buildings on English Heritage's At Risk Register. They include such wonders as Temple Mill in Leeds, which the Northerner also highlighted recently. Places such these simply cannot be lost.

English Heritage goes on to warn that:


Nationally, 3% of grade I and II* listed buildings are at risk

284 listed places of worship are among them

16.9% of England's 19,748 scheduled monuments are also at risk

The number of registered parks and gardens at risk increased from 99 (6.2%) in 2010 to 104 (6.4%) this year

Four of the six registered battlefields at risk are in Yorkshire and the Humber

Of the 7,481 conservation areas that have been surveyed, 516 (6.6%) are at risk.

St Margaret's team got their gong for the best restoration of a place of worship at a ceremony in London this morning, Monday 31 October, featuring the Lord and assorted celebs - Clare Balding, Graham Norton, Michael Winner and Danielle Hope. The other five winners are::
 

The Smythe Barn at Westenhanger, Hythe, Kent for the best craftsmanship on a heritage rescue
 
Arnos Vale Cemetery, Bristol, and St Stephen's, Rosslyn Hill, Hampstead, London, jointly for the best rescue of any other entry from the Heritage at Risk register.

Pleasley Colliery, Mansfield, Derbyshire (nearly northern...) for the best rescue of an industrial building or site
 
Tyntesfield Orangery in Somerset for the favourite award voted for by English Heritage members and readers of the Daily Telegraph, the awards' media partner.

Lloyd Webber signalled his future support at the award ceremony, saying:

All 16 shortlisted groups were exceptional and the judges had a hard time deciding between them. But in the end the winners stood out for their passion, perseverance and imagination, for the scale of the challenges they had taken on and for the legacy they leave behind – a secure future for beautiful historic buildings which without them could so easily have simply disappeared. I look forward to many others joining their ranks in the years to come.


 
Another of the judges, the classicist and TV presenter Bettany Hughes says:

The real joy of these awards is that we are recognising the value of the human spirit; our Angels are all men and women who have battled against the odds and who with flair, tenacity, sympathy, and sometimes wild inspiration have never taken 'no' for an answer and have instead laboured to make the world around them richer and better. If I wore hats, I would be in a perpetual state of taking my hat off to them all. We owe them much.

You can watch highlights from the awards ceremony on BBC 2's Culture Show at 6pm this coming Saturday 5 November.
 


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September 22 2011

The giant of the Dales is best public artwork of the year

You can view it, walk through it, look out of it at either a vast quarry or glorious Nidderdale, and then go have tea in Pateley Bridge

The north maintains its reputation as the home of vast artworks with an accolade for the remarkable Coldstones Cut near Pateley Bridge in Nidderdale.

Part art, part tribute to the quarrying industry which devours the Dales but also employs the Dalesfolk, the mammoth construction by Andrew Sabin has won the PMSA-Marsh Award for the best public sculpture of the year.

The PMSA is the Public Monuments and Sculpture Association and competition for their blessing is usually fierce.

Michael Paraskos, artist, critic and distinguished friend of the Northerner, has this to say about it in a piece for the Epoch Times:

Only by taking to the air is it possible to gain a view of the whole thing, but the point of the sculpture is not to provide a single visual experience. It is to offer a series of ground level encounters that stimulate the senses. Entering the site you are led down a series of stone clad tunnels and corridors, which inevitably bring to mind ancient earthworks and temples, such as Jarlshof in the Shetland Islands or Mycenae in Greece. These open out into ante chambers and ultimately the viewing area over the quarry itself. And like many prehistoric sites, the remoteness of Coldstones Cut adds to its sense of almost sacred mystery.

Despite these obvious associations, one of the refreshing things about Coldstones Cut is the general reluctance to force people to see the work as some kind of tree hugging (or in this case rock hugging) new age experience. It is genuinely pluralistic in its willingness to allow people to take from it what they want. For some it is no more than a stage post on a long distance ramble, while for others it will be an adventure playground for children. And some will undoubtedly see it as an emblem of rebirth and the earth mother as the tunnels take them partially underground and then back into the open air. Whether people see these things or not, for everyone the intention has been to create an aesthetic experience, in the true sense of the word "aesthetic", meaning a sensory experience.

The area up above the Cut, riddled with mineral workings and the odd bleak looking farm, is somewhat spooky. No wonder many who pass that way dive underground into the Stump Cross Caverns labyrith. It never surprised me that the late neo-Nazi Colin Jordan retired there to live in gloomy seclusion.

This year's other PMSA/Marsh winner is Harlow Sculpture Town initiative, in far-away Essex (although I did my eight-week block release journalism training there in 1974, from the Bath Evening Chronicle, and it was very nice).


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May 28 2011

Eva Rothschild at Hepworth Wakefield

Hepworth Wakefield; Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield

On the banks of the Calder stands our newest museum, its foundations deep in the river. Its patinated surfaces shift from lead to purple to silver-grey according to the altering light. From a certain angle – and it has many – the building looks like an islanded keep, fortified against the enemy and ringed by water. There seems to be no back or front. Even the means of entry appears, initially, secret.

The Hepworth Wakefield (as opposed to the Hepworth St Ives) is not just Britain's newest art museum. That wouldn't be much of a claim given that we have had so many in recent years, from Gateshead's Baltic to the New Art Gallery Walsall to the Turner Contemporary in Margate, also designed by David Chipperfield Architects, which opened only last month.

Nor is it necessarily much of a boast that this is the largest purpose-built gallery since the Hayward, with 5,000 square metres of space, for it looks as if you could put the whole thing into the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern, more or less. What really matters is this building's sense of purpose. The Hepworth could be the smallest of our museums and still count as one of Britain's greatest, for the simple reason that it is so well designed for the presentation of art.

Outside, the building is an agglomeration of irregular boxes. The roofs slope, the walls are high and compellingly stark. The windows are of different sizes and so intriguingly distributed they might make you think of a medieval castle. But of course the aesthetic is essentially modernist, all cubist stacking and flattening, with nuances of Picasso's houses at Horta and those geometric cities dreamed up by Paul Klee.

The colour of the exterior is irreconcilably controversial. Nobody has quite found a term for the peculiar mix of grey, brown and bluish-purple (the architects are calling it, simply, "Hepworth brown") with which the concrete is pigmented. But there are plenty of derogatory words in the air: dour, depressing, industrial, dirty. Some of the local people I met genuinely believed that the walls had not yet been painted.

But Hepworth brown changes all the time (and the concrete will presumably mellow). In any case it gives the museum far more gravitas than the glassy sheen of Chipperfield's Turner Contemporary, which suits its different status as a museum with a permanent collection. For the entire contents of the original Wakefield Art Gallery – including works by Giacometti, Brancusi and Gaudier-Brzeska, as well as Ben Nicholson, Henry Moore and the eponymous Barbara Hepworth – are here, along with a large group of Hepworth's plaster models, all amplified by additional loans from Tate and the British Council.

In Wakefield it is now possible to see Hepworth and her British peers in the context of European modernist sculpture as almost nowhere else outside Tate Modern – and in better viewing conditions. With its chasmic galleries and high-rise escalators, Tate Modern is all drama and onward thrust. Everything about its design, and very often its orchestration, runs against quiet and steady viewing. It is not always possible even to see the sculptures in the round, given the pressing throng of visitors.

The 10 galleries of the Hepworth are gracious, calm and scaled to human proportions. They rise up for a prototype of Hepworth's enormous Winged Figure, with its clattering anatomy of metal feathers, looking far better here than the original nailed to John Lewis on Oxford Street, and they subside to an intimate size for her more tactile works.

The opening gallery sets the tone with its spacious array of marble ovoids, totems and quasi-human forms. Waist-height, on low pedestals, they seem altogether more approachable in this setting, especially the polished white works, which can appear depilated and sterile.

At a distance, for instance, a hollowed egg such as Spring reveals very little other than Hepworth's signature pierced hole and strings. But up close, with nature through the window beyond, it lives up to its promise of bright new music and when you look inside there is an intimation of fresh blue skies.

Hepworth as carver and caster, working these forms by hand, is the subject of a gallery of tools and prototypes. This is complicated, since she did not regard them as art and there are too few finished works on show by comparison. But anyone who prefers her drawings, as I do, will be delighted to see several of her sensitive and super-fluent images of bodies in motion and at rest.

They express more naturally than the sculptures a characteristic tension between figuration and abstraction, between wings, strings and apertures suggestive of sight and speech, and those strenuous and elliptical solids that block interpretation. But all the works get strength from their proximity, here, to Brancusi's Danaide, for instance, an exquisite golden egg of a head. Or Naum Gabo's marvellous Stone with a Collar that brings together the stone, some cellulose acetate and a whiplash tail in an assemblage that somehow suggests a shoreline of waves, sea creatures, shells and helter-skelters shifting in perpetual motion.

Four galleries of the Hepworth are devoted to contemporary art, so that the museum looks forwards as well as backwards. The inaugural one-woman show is apt, since Eva Rothschild is always taking sidelong glances at modernist sculpture with her own cool and quirky works. Here she shows some humorously apposite pieces – a little Wakefield cloud, scribbled in white wire; a gleaming black doughnut echoing the museum's ring of galleries; and a whole string of works that take Hepworth's art to a contemporary conclusion, involving pebbles, nuts, moons and surfaces of black and gold that bring a nightclub glamour to these comically helpless and eccentric works.

At the gateway between old and new, Rothschild has one of her levitating hoops – a giant circle from which scarlet ribbons descend, apparently held up by nothing whatsoever. It is beautifully conceived, and titled: Sunrise. The gradually sloping angles of each gallery appear as suited to contemporary art as to the balanced geometry of Mondrian or Ben Nicholson's pale reliefs. Partly this is to do with keeping the eye moving, but also because of the superlative use of daylight, which waterfalls down from the edges of suspended ceilings, bathing rather than striking the works of art.

And here and there the windows of the Hepworth show you real water, damming and cascading outside. This is one of the museum's most striking virtues. Rather than hermetically sealed, like so many galleries, it frames occasional images of the world beyond: 19th-century warehouses, the spire of the Chantry Chapel, the magnificent willow that weeps by the river. And each view brings you back to the art once more, to see what it makes of life.

Not 15 minutes away by car, Yorkshire Sculpture Park is showing monumental works by the Catalan sculptor Jaume Plensa: a loosely connected family of what he calls his "souls". Large bronze figures, each clutching a cherry tree that rises like a thought, or a prayer; enormous heads, some in translucent resin, lit from within and lettered with anxious ideas, others formed of open lattices spelling out half-caught phrases. A beautiful curtain of capital letters, when gently strung, articulates music out of broken poems.

But best of all is a gallery of vast haunting heads, carved from white alabaster, that seem to be struggling from the rock like Michelangelo's Slaves. Each face is elongated, almost anamorphic and yet at the same time conjuring holograms and computer distortions. Conflating ancient and modern, they are unforgettably strange: new beings half-alive, it seems, in the world.

It is not so far from here to the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds, or to his open gardens and studio. Indeed, anyone wishing to steep themselves in European sculpture of the 20th and 21st centuries should go to see it at its most condensed, outdoors and in, in a few square miles of Yorkshire.


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November 14 2010

Great sculpture parks and trails

From life-sized elephants to figures hanging from the trees above you, England's sculpture parks and trails make for an enlightening winter walk. Here are 10 of the best

The vast number of sculpture parks and trails around England seems to be one of the nation's best-kept secrets. Scattered across the country, they offer a wide variety of artworks to be enjoyed outdoors and the general ambience and landscape of each is uniquely different. They are also a great way to encourage the enjoyment of art for children who might otherwise rebel at being taken to a gallery. Best of all, many are free. The ones selected here remain open all year so you can enjoy them with the end of the autumn colours, and even in the snow.

Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Is this the best sculpture park in England? Probably. The park has pieces by many internationally famous artists, including Elisabeth Frink, Barbara Hepworth and Antony Gormley. A huge variety of work is permanently scattered throughout the grounds, while exhibitions in the galleries also spill out into the landscape (currently David Nash until the end of February). It gives a perfect overview of British sculpture in the 20th century and is set in lovely scenery with sweeping views towards the lake and sheep grazing around the plinths of huge Henry Moore sculptures. Seeing everything is exhausting (allow at least five hours), especially if you walk to the Longside Gallery, but be sure to spare time for Skyspace by James Turrell, a hidden chamber with an Egyptian feel. Details West Bretton, Wakefield, 01924 832 631; ysp.co.uk. Opening times: grounds and centre, all year, 10am-6pm (Longside gallery 11am-4pm). Admission free (donations only), car parking £4. Facilities: toilets, cafe, shop, galleries.

New Art Centre, Wiltshire

An impressive list of artists have shown their work here over the past 17 years including William Turnbull, Antony Gormley, Richard Deacon and Anthony Caro. There are also always a few pieces by Barbara Hepworth on display, but most of her work is only here temporarily, usually for several months. The sculptures are shown in beautiful grounds (allow about an hour and a half to see everything). The map leads you through the carefully planted gardens, over a stile and down to the bottom of a big field (Barry Flanagan's Acrobats is permanent and worth the walk), and then back by a small wooded area. The house is sometimes shut, but maps are left on the shelf on the porch.

Details Roche Court, East Winterslow, Salisbury, Wiltshire, 01980 862 244; sculpture.uk.com. Open daily all year, 11am-4pm. Admission free (donations welcome).

Kielder Water and Forest Park, Northumberland

Some 22 sculptures are scattered along a 27-mile forest trail around a lake – and are best seen by those who love walking. Fortunately, the sculptures are often grouped together so, using your map, choose a few, drive to the nearest car park and walk from there. With kids, visit the Minotaur Maze, the Play Garden or the sculpture trail called the Kielder Keepsake. You can buy a Keepsake pack from one of the visitor centres (£4.99) and follow the trail to find 12 brass plates. Make a rubbing of each one to produce your own souvenir book. The trail is only two miles but can take hours to complete as you have to hunt for the plates. Other sculptures worth a hike for are Belvedere, Skyspace by James Turrell or, on a sunny day, Mirage (silver discs hanging from a tree) and Wave Chamber (a huge stone camera obscura).

Details Kielder, Northumberland, 01434 220 616; visitkielder.com/site/things-to-do/art-and-architecture. Leaplish visitor centre is open daily Feb-Dec, 01434 251 000. Kielder Castle visitor centre open Nov-Dec, Sat and Sun, 11am-4pm, then Apr-Nov, daily 10am-5pm. Tower Knowe visitor centre open Jan-Oct, daily 10am-4pm. Admission free; car parking £3, which covers any of the car parks.

Norton Priory Museum and Gardens, Cheshire

This crumbling monastery is a well-hidden retreat from the modern world. The sculpture does vary in quality, but the gardens are gorgeous, with little bridges over the stream, grassy areas by the river and part of the grounds are covered by woodland. The trail is an on-going project which has been some 20 years in the making, and is set in 38 acres. Allow about two hours plus to see all the sculptures, about four of which are in the walled garden. Be sure to see Kitty's Gate, inspired by a story about a maid who drowned herself in the pond. Most of the other sculptures are very colourful, such as Planthead by Diane Gorvin in the rhododendron bushes, her face framed by sculpted and natural leaves.

Details Tudor Road, Manor Park, Runcorn, Cheshire, 01928 569 895; nortonpriory.org. Admission: adults £6.25, children £4.40, under-5s free. Family £15.25. Open daily in winter, 10am-4pm (walled garden shut), and summer, 10am-5pm. Shut: 24-26 Dec and the first two weeks of Jan. Facilities: toilets, cafe.

Burghley House and Gardens, Lincolnshire

The sculpture garden is separate from the Garden of Surprises, which is in a smaller courtyard and has lots of exciting water features. The sculpture garden is spread throughout the original gardens of the house. The sculptures are carefully sited to make the most of the beautiful lake, old open-air theatre and grounds. There are about 20 permanent pieces and the walk takes about an hour and a half. From April to October there is also a temporary exhibition. Be sure to see Balance by Sophie Dickens, three life-size figures balancing above you on the branch of a tree – easy to miss among the leaves in spring. Vertical Face is a giant rust-coloured face made from small pieces of steel that has great presence and drama.

Details Burghley House, Stamford, Lincolnshire, 01780 752451; burghley.co.uk. Open (gardens only) 11am-5pm daily. Admission free in winter. From 20 Mar-31 Oct, £6.70 adults, £3.40 children (includes Garden of Surprises). Facilities: toilets, garden cafe (11am-5pm in season).

Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail, Gloucestershire

This is one of the oldest trails in England which is befitting of an ancient royal forest. The trail is 3.5 miles long and begins at Beechenhurst Lodge. It follows a circular path that starts with the enormous and iconic Place, a giant chair. Do not be tempted to stray too far from the signposted path as the forest is huge. The trail takes up to three hours, with about 20 sculptures along the way. The map helps you find the larger sculptures which are hidden just off the path. These sculptures are all permanent and some are a little worn. Be sure not to miss Cathedral, a giant stained-glass window suspended in the trees, David Nash's Fire and Water Boats, and the tall and skinny House by Miles Davies.

Details Beechenhurst Lodge, Coleford, Gloucestershire, 01594 822 612; forestofdean-sculpture.org.uk. Open daily Nov-Mar, 10am-4pm, Easter-Oct, 10am-6pm. Shut Christmas Day. Admission free, car parking £3, map £1.25. Facilities: cafe, toilets, shop.

The Pride of the Valley Sculpture Park, Surrey

This park is opposite a very nice pub, also called the Pride of the Valley, which means you can easily include lunch in your visit. The park has an enormous number of sculptures (at the moment there are more than 180, including Rolling Horse by Lucy Kinsella, Speed Skaters by Michael Marriott and Adolph Hitler or Mother Theresa by Wilfred Pritchard) squeezed into a small area. It has a varied landscape, with a lake, woodland areas and intimate clearings. Start from the office which is inside the actual park. There are several routes, the longest being about a mile and a half which will take most people up to two hours to complete. Some areas of the gardens look a little unkempt, but there is an amazing and eclectic mix of sculptures to see at every turn, including some life-size circus elephants.

Details Jumps Road, Farnham, Surrey, 01428 605 453; thesculpturepark.com. Open daily apart from Christmas Day. Admission: adults £6, children £3, under-5s free.

Another Place, Crosby Beach, Merseyside

Another Place is an installation of life-size figures by Antony Gormley. About 100 cast-iron figures which gaze out to sea are scattered along a mile of beach. Are they watching the horizon for the arrival of something? Or quietly trying to leave? If you want to get up close you'll need wellies unless you get lucky with the tide (officially you are advised to stay back). Gradually the figures are changing – their varying encasement in barnacles and seaweed only adds to their beauty as they are gradually claimed by the sea.

Details Off the A565, follow signs to Crosby beach or Another Place. Nearest rail stations are Blundellsands or Hall Road, and then a 10-minute walk. Detailed directions can be found at tiny.cc/pi35t. Facilities: toilets and seasonal mobile catering.

Grizedale Forest Park, Cumbria

Grizedale boasts about 80 sculptures, spread out over 6,000 acres, making it impossible to see everything in one visit. Some of the work has softened with time (a few pieces have been here for 26 years) and almost disappeared into the forest – you often have to venture into the trees to find things. Some pieces have benefitted from the weathering process, such as Some Fern by Kerry Morrison, an enormous fern-like carving that has blended into the bracken around it. A map is essential and shows a variety of trails graded by length and difficulty – from the shortest with the most sculptures (one mile) to the longest of 9.5 miles.

Details Hawkshead, Ambleside, Cumbria, 01229 860 010; forestry.gov.uk/grizedale. Open daily in winter, 10am-4pm (shut 23 Dec-2 Jan), and in summer 10am-5pm. Admission free, car parking £3, map £1.50 or catalogue £3.95. Facilities: toilets, cafe, shop.

Broomhill Art Hotel and Sculpture Garden, Devon

The sculpture garden is attached to the hotel so combine your visit with lunch, a cream tea, or an overnight stay. The gardens have 300 sculptures set in 10 acres of land. The hotel is at the top of a steep hill and the paths wind down through various levels of woodland to the peaceful river below. The sculpture is from a wide spectrum of artists – more than 60 sculptors in all – with many bronzes and figurative works. The top terrace is the most open and flat area, with many small sculptures dotted throughout. The lower levels feature the larger and more dramatic pieces.

Details Muddiford Road, Barnstaple, North Devon, 01271 850 262; broomhillart.co.uk. Open daily, 11am-4pm, shut 20 Dec -15 Jan. Admission: adults £4.50, children £2.50, family £10. Facilities: toilets, restaurant, indoor gallery and hotel.

• Sculpture Parks and Trails of England by Alison Stace is published by A&C Black, price £15.99. Buy it from the Guardian Bookshop


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June 28 2010

Yorkshire enlists Turner to attract tourists

Seventy sites associated with London-born JMW Turner chosen for first of a planned series of artists' trails in county

Tourism promoters in Yorkshire have poached the most famous of London's native artists to reassure anxious southerners about the beauties of the north.

A new trail guide links 70 sites in the county where JMW Turner sat down with his easel between producing masterpieces such as Rain, Steam and Speed, and The Fighting Temeraire.

Far from being alone among historical fans of the white rose county, Turner was unusual in seeking out unexpectedly picturesque or interesting areas beyond the well-known moors, coast and dales.

He was chosen for the first of a planned series of artists' trails because his work includes studies made in industrial Rotherham and inner-city Beeston, the Leeds area now known for its links with the 2005 London bombings.

A cockney born in Covent Garden, Turner came north for the first time at the age of 22, through his friendship with a radical landowner, Walter Fawkes, a descendant of the gunpowder plotter, Guy. Any preconceptions of factory gloom by the young artist were swept away by the beauty of Fawkes's surroundings at Farnley Hall, near Leeds, still the home of both the Fawkes family and a major collection of Turner watercolours.

One of the stops on the Turner tour is at nearby Addingham Mill, where the artist sketched on "exceptionally large sheets of paper" during a tour of the Wharfe and Washburn river valleys. The tourist authority Welcome to Yorkshire (WTY) seizes on the point to dispel myths about the weather, which in Leeds is consistently drier than Barcelona.

"We can only assume that conditions were settled for the use of this paper to have been possible, and that Turner was clearly determined to enjoy these conditions at his leisure," said Gary Verity, chief executive of WTY.

The trail is equally glowing about Beeston hill, where Turner perched after being advised – correctly – that it gave visitors "the finest viewpoint in Leeds".

The trail is designed to appeal to local people as well as outsiders, but metropolitan types, similar to the young Turner, are the principal target. Most of the stops, which are being given benches and information boards, are in the reassuring arcadia of the county's national parks, but Verity emphasised "the secret corners which Turner discovered 200 years ago".

The artist's horseback tour of the county in 1816 included Conisbrough castle near Doncaster and a stop at Rotherham to paint the town's minster, the relic of a pre-Tudor academic foundation. Had it not been for the dissolution of the monasteries between 1536 and 1540, the college there might have ranked with Oxford and Cambridge.

The list of locations was made with the help of Turner scholar David Hill, professor of art at the University of Leeds, where student flats now occupy a former brewery in Kirkstall, two miles from the city centre, where the artist painted the river Aire. Hill said Yorkshire had a claim to be Turner's favourite landscape, with repeated visits being made alongside his travels on the continent.

"The trail will help to put Yorkshire ever more firmly on the art world's map," he said, at the launch of a £50,000 initiative, which bid successfully for grant aid from the Heritage Lottery Fund. A website introduces the trail in virtual form, while benches at the real views will face Turner's way, looking out at landscapes both much-altered and little-changed.

WTY also hopes that trail-followers will see for themselves the artist's discovery of beauty and fascination in working life. The Beeston watercolour includes one of the country's first gaslit mills, workers stretching cloth on tenter-frames and "a city alive with manufacture and smoke sweeping up into the morning sky".

Other trails may follow David Hockney around the mills and hills of Bradford and the wolds and coastline of the East Riding, where the artist often stayed with his mother at Bridlington. The sculptors Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth, raised in the Wakefield area and students at Leeds College of Art, are also high on the list.


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November 23 2009

A journey around the True North

Martin Wainwright talks to photographer Christopher Thomond about capturing the spirit of the north



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