This morning Mr PP and I went to visit a sculpture garden trail at Birtley House, Bramley near Guildford, Surrey (UK). I have often driven past the gates to this event which happens yearly and is only open for 3-4 weeks, but this is the first time I have ever visited.
I was tempted by the proclamation on the flyer that a 48 acres estate not normally open to the public was the venue to the exhibition. Actually, I should have read this more carefully, the key words are exhibition and garden. I had assumed from the flyer that the sculpture would be sited around a trail through the estate, which is heavily wooded, so you can imagine my heart sank when we arrived to see sculptures arranged around the edge of the neatly manicured lawns in front of the house. The house itself is now a private nursing home and it was clear that the relatives of some of the residents had come along to visit and take their relative out and about in the garden.
across the lawn towards Birtley House
We duly set out from the car park up to the front of the house to collect our brochure (£1) and then into the entrance lobby for the first set of sculptures. Now here is where I have my first difficulty. I like three dimensional artwork, and I particularly like intriguing 3D artwork, but while the pieces on show in the entrance were undoubtedly highly competent and of a good standard, nothing really ‘Grabbed’ me. Much of it was quite mundane and pedestrian, really the sort of thing you can see in home interiors shops. The best thing by far was the ‘Hundreds Chairs’ (although only one was on view). This was an amazing throne -like hand carved chair made from locally sourced ash. At £900 a pair I can’t afford them, but if I could I would have bought them and indeed ordered another 4 and a table to complete the set!
Moving back into the garden there was the inevitable mix of quirky, whimsical figures and chunky abstract forms. Always being keen on the quirky, I spotted an almost life size female figure with cases and a weird hat … the perfect reminder to be out when the in-laws come round!
“Shopping” by Henrietta Bud
The gardens are nice, not spectacular, but nice and at this time of year when everything is just starting to take off they were looking promising. At the edge of the terrace with a frothy flowering cherry as a backdrop was a fabulous black crow making off with a paper bag…
Crow by John Joyce
An elevated level at the side and rear of the house was home for more sculptures including an interesting linear piece in red steel of a giant crayon writing the word red and another steel wire sculpture of the ever-popular boxing hares..
Red by Henrietta Bud
Boxing Hares by Henrietta Bud
There were bee hives with many low flying, very busy bees and a strange area which gives the impression of still being in planning as it were.
bee hives and buzzing busy bees
A large oak tree played host to a set of 3 giant triangular pyramid shaped wind chimes, each swaying gently in the breeze emitting a deep clanging sound. you would really need to have understanding neighbours for these to be in your garden!
A piece of exposed brick wall provided the backdrop for these funky road signs by Allan Mackenzie…
Pair of Puffins by Alison Catchlove
although the pond itself was quite pretty enough to look at.
two views of the garden pond
Continuing on back across the main lawn were a variety of pieces, mainly of relatively small size but with one or two exceptions.
Fish on a Unicycle by Daren Greenhow
Star Schnauzer by Dreene Cotton
A side border housed a great fun caterpillar, which instantly reminded me of the Very Hungry Caterpillar (by children’s author Eric Carle)
Hairy Caterpillar by Alison Catchlove
while the shrub border nearest to the car park had this elegant flying duck.
Spirit in the Sky by Sarah Buckley
Although the event is free to enter, I did feel a bit disappointed that it was all so tightly packed in together and the walk round a woodland ‘trail’ I had been looking forward to was not on offer. There was the opportunity to stroll over to a second larger pond on which some Canada Geese were floating (real ones) and we decided to take a look.
pond with the inevitable “Monet” bridge
Once past the pond we wandered into a small wooded area past where the Surrey Woodland somebody-or-other holds workshops in some lean-to’s and a yurt. Coming back round to the pond again I spotted this lovely clump of a childhood favourite – the Pink Campion.
It was a ‘different’ way to spend an hour, and in truth it was only an hour as the trail is very compact and there is nothing else to see or do. Would I go again, probably not, but it was worth seeing the house (exterior) and grounds of somewhere not usually open to the public – how nosey is that!