7 of the best sculpture parks in South East England

I’m asked frequently about sourcing sculpture for the garden. It’s a very personal choice so I prefer to point clients towards the best sculpture parks. In effect they are commercial galleries for the great outdoors. Do check their websites for opening times as some are closed during Winter.

Hannah Peschar, near Dorking, Surrey RH5 5QU http://www.hannahpescharsculpture.com/

The original place for sculpture in the garden, has been in business for many years and is well respected. The founder has retired but it’s still a going concern. Set in a magnificent bog garden in east Surrey.

‘Embracing’ by Michael Speller at Hannah Peschar Gallery

‘Embracing’ by Michael Speller at Hannah Peschar Gallery

Garden Gallery, Stockbridge, Hants SO20 8AZ

https://www.gardengallery.uk.com/

Closes to viewing in winter, but owner Rachel Bebb opens on appointment and advises year round. Very solid and represents a wide range of sculptors at all price levels. Also has a rotating exhibition in place at Architectural Plants, a worth-the-trip nursery near Horsham in Sussex.

Cass Sculpture Foundation, near Goodwood, Chichester PO18 0QP

http://sculpture.org.uk/

High end. Many corporate installations, plus major galleries. Worth the visit for its magical setting in the South Downs.  

New Art Centre, Roche Court, near Salisbury, Wiltshire SP5 1BG

https://sculpture.uk.com/

Big names – Gormley, Flanagan, etc. Open to visit all year. As above, worth the visit for the parkland setting alone. 

Sculpture Park, Churt, near Farnham, Surrey GU10 2LH

https://www.thesculpturepark.com/

Quite an eccentric collection, ever-changing, largely figurative. You may unearth a gem

David Harber, Aston Upthorpe, Oxon OX11 9EE

https://www.davidharber.co.uk/

One man who has made his name focusing on producing work for high-end gardens. Glossy and some pieces are possibly a little ‘over-exposed’, but impeccably-made abstract works specifically designed for gardens and outdoors developments.

Hauser & Wirth, Bruton, Somerset BA10 0NL

Outpost of an international gallery in an amazing landscape designed by Piet Oudolf. Big names with prices to match.

This post is by Robert Wadman. Read more about him here.

Meeting Professor Nigel Dunnett

On Wednesday morning, I loaded my phone with podcasts (the devastating S-Town, since you ask, 5 stars from me) and settled into my car for the long pilgrimage up to Scampston Hall on the edge of the North Yorkshire moors.

With its legendary Piet Oudolf garden rooms, the site has long been on on my wish list. But the clincher was the chance to spend several hours drinking in the ideas of Professor Dunnett.

He didn’t disappoint, with lots of nuts-and-bolts advice on how to satisfy our almost child-like need for a colourful evocation of nature.  He explained where he stands in the (not so new) New Perennial movement. In a nutshell: increasingly he identifies himself as part of a new British style which is more free-flowing, colourful, painterly. Less purist and dogmatic than its Dutch and German proponents.

To add to the glut of horti knowledge there was tour with the affable Paul Smith Head Gardener at Scampston. More useful nuts-and-bolts stuff. Those iconic grass swathes (Molinia caerulia ‘Poul Petersen’) are the original plants, 17-years old. How so fresh and vibrant? They are raked out and cut to the base in January, their crowns almost “ground down” to reduce woodiness with a ride-on mower.  

The event was one of a series of Masterclasses organised by Annie Guilfoyle and Noel Kingsbury:  https://www.gardenmasterclass.org/  Next week, they have grass wizard Neil Lucas at Bury Court - a Piet Oudolf, Christopher Bradley-Hole garden double bill – near Farnham.

Should be great, but only enough journey time for half an episode of S-Town.

Dunnett planting at the Barbican in July - colourful and naturalistic

Dunnett planting at the Barbican in July - colourful and naturalistic

Oudolf planting at Scampston in October - dramatic and architectural

Oudolf planting at Scampston in October - dramatic and architectural

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Pathways in the landscape

I met Tim Knowles at Chisenhale Studios in East London in the early 00s. He was exhibiting a range of work created by the collision of nature with man and manmade media. Most striking were a set of huge canvases with delicate spidery traces made by hundreds of pens swaying in the wind as they hung suspended from the strands of a large willow. 

Fifteen years on, Tim's based in the West Country. He's still exploring the traces of nature and the landscape. At the moment, he has a solo show at Hestercombe Gardens:  ‘The Dynamics of Drifting’.

And on Saturday 14 October there's the chance to participate with 40 others in creating a new piece. It will involve seeking out and recording traces of movement within the Hestercombe estate – all you will need is outdoor clothing, bags of energy and ideally a smartphone. If you happen to be anywhere near Somerset, it sounds unmissable: http://bit.ly/2kvAM05

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