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A treat for sculpture vultures


With more than 500 places to visit, the National Trust’s basic deal with the British public rests upon the offer of taking home treasured memories of a quintessentially English day out.

But if you wander just south west of Nailsworth to the Trust’s Newark Park, near Wotton-under-Edge, more than memories are up for grabs: if it fits in your car, you might be able to do a deal and drive home with a work of art.

Local sculptors have teamed up with the National Trust to put together a captivating display of their latest creations – and if you really like what you can see (and can get though to the artist; the mobile signal here is dreadful), it’s all up for sale.

Newark Park | A treat for sculpture vultures
Newark Park.

Perched above the Ozleworth Valley, a mile north-east of Wotton, Newark Park is used to luring visitors in search of that  reassuring country house experience.

Sitting amid 700 acres of landscaped parkland and manicured gardens and even boasting a Merchant Ivory-style lake and folly, the Grade One-listed Tudor hunting lodge was gifted to the Trust in 1954.

Circle of Light by Chris Beckett | A treat for sculpture vultures
Circle of Light, by Chris Beckett.

‘Sculpture in the garden 2021’ (free with general admission) maximises on Newark’s charms to make the perfect backdrop for a celebration of local three-dimensional art, with the work of many artists from the five valleys on show.

Intended or not, if there is an over-arching theme to this outdoor exhibition, it seems to be kinetic art, with a broad range of pieces that not only sit in the landscape but interact with it through movement.

Grandad by Val Adamson | A treat for sculpture vultures
Grandad, by Val Adamson.

Chris Beckett, who lives in Rodborough, has a range of enchanting glasswork on show which would bring magic to any garden, large or small.

“I like to add another dimension to my outdoor pieces by designing them to hang, sitting alongside nature’s wonders and allowing them to move in the breeze,” she says. Chris’s offerings begin at £130.

More (literally) pieces dotted around the grounds include Murmuration (£2,750), a metallic tree with revolving, wind-driven leaves, and Quill (£3,750), a giant upended feather that corkscrews in the autumn breeze.

Sycamore Spinners by Chris Beckett | A treat for sculpture vultures
Sycamore Spinners, by Chris Beckett.

These are from the hands of local Warwickshire artist Richard Creswell, who also has Square Pear on show – a piece, priced at £3,850, that sits so confidently in Newark’s rose garden you’d imagine the Trust might have to check down the back of all the house’s sofas to see if they can retain it.

Chalford artists Val and Martin Adamson also deliver a double hit of pleasure: Val’s arresting Grandad (£975) stares pensively out from a doorway into the rose garden, while Martin’s Hide and Seek I – Owl (£850) stares down imperiously at an unsuspecting mouse on the rear terrace.

Many more treasures await but, even if you don’t leave having lightened your wallet for the sake of jollifying your own castle, one question stubbornly persists: some 5.6 million of us at the last count – more than the population of Finland – adore nothing more than combining fresh air with a bit of retro time travel. For all those people, the National trust, as purveyors of the past, functions perfectly.

Celtic Flame by Sharon Rich | A treat for sculpture vultures
Celtic Flame, by Sharon Rich.

But what of those other millions who aren’t members? An event like this, where old bumps boldly into new, illustrates how perfectly the Trust can use all its heritage and splendour as a platform for celebrating more of the here and now – thereby reaching parts that history and heritage may struggle to lure. So this is a show that shakes things up a bit. Hopefully, if the Trust enjoys it as much as the visitors, we’ll see more to follow?

National Trust, Newark Park, until Sunday October 31.

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