North West England

we made our go and see visit to grizedale to see and experience the sculpture and to research what it was like to work outdoors.  there were numerous circumstances that influenced the visit to take place in mid September.  the weather was perfect to spend the weekend outside.

the experience we chose to have was based on an adventure of discovery. from our bed and breakfast base we chose to join the largest trail and follow it for it’s entirety. we did get all the way round, however due to some flaky signposting at our starting point and an element of uncertainty on our part, we did miss out a loop of the trail.



our decision to visit to grizedale wasn’t actually our first choice.  of the first group we chose….. it became clear that apart from the initial enquiry email, the group were not going to entertain a visiting group, especially if no financial reimbursement was made available.

in trying to find somewhere to visit we strived to use public transport. reasons for this were numerous including the advantage of travelling in such a way that we could talk and exchange ideas.  as our search for somewhere to visit widened we held onto trying to find somewhere that was accessible by public transport.  we spent a lot of time researching….. but nowhere really lit us up.

grizedale lit us up so much, we conceded that we would need a car to get there and this was so going to be worth it as grizedale has been at the forefront of bringing sculpture to the public in an outdoor space since the 1970’s.


through conversations during the visit and email exchanges since, i’ve gotten to know a bit more about how grizedale started to become what it is today.  bill grant is attributed with beginning the whole thing.

Finding out about the history of Grizedale is easy because of the archive website. Through an Arts and Humanities Research Council funded practice-based PhD artist Edwina Fitzpatrick in collaboration with the UK Forestry Commission and Glasgow School of Art has established a viewable archive of all the known works ever made at Grizedale.

through an exchange with Edwina i discovered alongside bill there were others involved in getting the sculpture to grizedale and opening it up to the public.  indeed it was martin orram the head forester before bill who began the work to open up the forest so the public could explore it. another person Edwina cited as being important in the development of the sculpture being seen at grizedale was peter davis.  peter was inspired by the land art happening in America and at the time was the region’s arts council officer.

at the unveiling of two new works in 2011, peter is quoted as saying “‘How we engage with landscapes and forests is shifting.’ (1)  i got a sense of this during our visit to grizedale. we saw more mountain bikers than walkers,  segways making their way into the hills and there is a large collection of the ubiquitous zip wire.


as an arts venue grizedale is evolving. the visitor centre offers a range of activities for the family and next to the very airy and spacious café is an exhibition space. while we were there  the exhibition on show was the environmental photographer of the year. a collection of the best environmental photographs from the 10,000 submissions.  part of the mediation about the exhibition stated:

“……. it provides an opportunity for photographers to share images of environmental and social issues with international audiences and to enhance our understanding of the causes, consequences and solutions to climate change and social inequality.”


this ongoing development is overseen by the curator for arts development for the forestry commission England ….. hayley skipper.  hayley was a fantastic contact and helped us to plan our visit to grizedale.  we’d like to thank her for her help and advice in making our go and see bursary visit possible.

the net result of 40 years of working outdoors at grizedale is a collection of sculptures arranged into eight trails. we decided we wanted to be outdoors for as much as the Saturday as possible and wanted to experience discovering the works.  the Silurian trail was our trail of choice.


View the story of our silurian trail adventure on Storify


by walking the Silurian trail we experienced the results of working outdoors.  we experienced moments of “is this a sculpture?” followed by moments of wide emotional responses, conversation and laughter, expecially when i managed to sink a foot into some pretty deep mud.




i knew from pre-visit research what some of the works were but not where they were placed.  finding last rays of an english rose by keir smith so early into the walk heightened my wonderment and emotional connection to being at grizedale.

our strategy for the walk was to do it armed only with a digital version of the forestry commission’s walking guide.   for me this strategy added to the excitement of discovering what each peice of scupture was.  the guide only has markers for the locations of the sculptures.


we experienced a sensation of being lost in a safe manner and finding ourselves through the sculptures we saw.  we took full advantage of being able to interact with the works.

while at grizedale we got swept up by the energy of the place. if we want to work outside successfully,  we need to get somewhere close to recreating the feeling of being at grizedale.


Go & see bursaries: “The award will facilitate discussions about what working outdoors is really like” @CorridorArts

— a-n News (@an_artnews) March 26, 2014

we set out to test our theoretical ideas about working outdoors.  there might not be just one answer.  one aspect of asking the question “what’s it like to work outdoors?” is that it might be just something one has to experience for oneself.

the tweet from march reminded me that we were looking to have discussions about working outdoors as well as experiencing the results.  i’ve been able to chat with hayley about this very thing.  in speaking with her i got an insight into her world of curating the arts development for the forestry commission. we spoke specifically about the effects of placing sculpture in the landscape on grizedale and as a place to visit.

hayley’s background is a sculptor. we discussed how her training got her to consider the “place of the thing.” i got a sense of how place of the thing is at the core of grizedale. in the late 70’s sculpture was going through a phase of using natural materials. working at grizedale sculptors were able to do this and experience how place informed the work they strived to make.

stuff has moved on since then and hayley explained the way in which grizedale looks to encompass as many models of work as possible.   things that remain constant are the work is made for the location and the challenge of working outside. highlights of this challenge include getting stuff to the site, the materials and the physical condition of being outside. i listened to stories of visiting students arriving to work outside in ugg boots and clothes best suited for a city.

i learnt a bit about the cycle of forestry.  for some sculptures this is in a second phase, so where they were once enclosed by the forest, now they stand more prominently. some works are now very much more exposed than when they were made.  i got a sense of how works at grizedale are on an evolutionary journey, from the outset of the idea, through making and on into the time when they sit finished in the landscape.

we chatted a bit about risk. i asked if  it’s an acceptable risk that some sculptures might not be seen.  i think her answer was yes, however in answering it i started to hear ideas about managing visitors. she spoke of how it’s a case of  “everyone arriving at it in their own different way.” these ideas really started to push my theorectical standpoint about producing the art walk we’re planning.

people are important. from the artist being able to work to the visitor understanding what they are entering into. i sensed that hayley very subtly makes sure that grizedale continues to evolve through very good management of resources, people and time to ensure that grizedale continues to be a special place to be discovered.

this has informed my own thinking about how to set up our art walk.  i will keep the overall sense works to be discovered but after talking with hayley see the importance of having somewhere more defined to direct certain visitors towards.

from the emotional visit weekend, to the arrival of this review, my approach to the making of our art walk is going to be so much broader, deeper and better informed because of our go and see bursary enabled visit to grizedale sculpture.








additional links:

grizedale sculpture

forestry commisionn/grizedale 

grizedale archive by Edwina Fitzpatrick

Edwina Fitzpatrick’s practice website.

environmental photographer of the year.

walking at grizedale  forestry commission information