Actually we weren’t lost. We knew exactly where we were on the map. It’s just that we couldn’t find what we were looking for. Grizedale Forest, near Hawkshead in the Lake District is one of my favourite places. There are over 60 sculptures by a variety of contemporary artists which have been skillfully scattered with a revelatory wit around the large forest area over the last three decades or so. It is said it takes 3 days to see all the works installed here. But never mind them; the charms of the forest and tarn work a spell of their own and the panoramas of the mountains and fells of the Lake District which can suddenly appear – on a clear day – in the space of just a few steps are stunning enough in their own right – try the combined red and green marked paths. The effect on me is the same as what happens with Tate Modern; even when you leave the designated area you’re never quite sure where the art stops. The photo on the right is Kerry Morrison’s splendidly ambiguous Some fern. Some of the pieces can be seen from afar but equally can appear seemingly out of nowhere as you walk along; sometimes you miss them. And here, just for the sake of it, is a real Grizedale fern unfolding like some alien surrealist creation (click on the photo for a bigger picture).
What I was specifically looking for – not that it was crucial to the day’s pleasures, I hasten to add, though we did expend a considerable amount of energy in tracing and retracing our steps and it would have added a nice symmetry – was Andy Goldsworthy‘s brilliant Taking a wall for a walk, a dry stone wall which ambles (unlike those normal iconic features common in the Lake District landscape) between established trees. I’d seen it a couple of times before, the first time in its full glory, and – some years later – after it had suffered a direct hit from a tree falling, which tree had (of course) been left in situ, so I was wondering what the current state of play was. Alas, this year I shan’t get to see for myself because, as I’ve said, we couldn’t find it.
- the wall had indeed gone for a further walk. Even taking the changing seasons into account, well over a decade of the same view might induce a certain restlessness
- the neatly folding Forestry Commission plan lied. That map distinctly shows a section of path shared by two suggested routes, sharing green and pale purple spots on the plan. We saw plenty of green marker posts (and white ones, which told us we had gone too far), but nary a pale purple one
- having climbed up the obscure muddy incline by a less than obvious marker post only seen on the third time of passing that boasted no colour at all, I should have persevered further up that narrow but unpromising path and maybe all would have been revealed
Naturally, as the rationalist and skeptic I try to be, I would prefer the first to be the case. The second would be unfortunate. Something has to be amiss, though I don’t want to diss the Forestry Commission too much as we’d had a good walk in their Whinlatter Forest Park earlier in the week too. The third would be typical, but … no pale purple marker. Next time (and there almost certainly will be one) I’ll go from the car park they suggest, but that’s another day.
I wouldn’t let any of the above stop you spending time in Grizedale. It’s full of the joys, playful strolling food for the mind and soul, though the body might ache a bit after (it is the Lake District). So many shades of green to be seen. And, yes, you can wind up the tree. The greyworld team has installed a few like this, each giving out a different sound. Here’s the Grizedale Sculpture website and, if you don’t know Andy Goldsworthy‘s work, here’s his website; if you just stick his name into Google images prepare yourself for a treat. Oh, and among the abundant birdsong we distinctly heard a cuckoo.