Sculpture gardens & outdoor art in Devon
Banksy better look out - Devon has some great outdoor art on show this summer. Shall we explore?
You don’t have to be Will Gompertz to see we’ve some fabulous outdoor sculpture trails and pop-ups happening round Devon this summer. And with the kids off school soon, being en plein air with an ice-cream beats strong-arming them round a sweaty art gallery any day.
BROOMHILL ART HOTEL, BARNSTAPLE
Set in in North Devon woods and water meadows, Broomhill is a showcase for 300 sculptures and great for inspiring your young Banksies, as Dutch owners Rinus and Aniet van de Sande are totally relaxed about kids interacting with the artwork. That giant red stiletto remind you of anyone?
Their National Sculpture Prize celebrates its 10th year in 2019 and among the artworks on show is this giant multicoloured spinning top by Roger Clarke, which you are welcome to give a whirl. You can vote for your favourite over the summer, with the winner announced in the autumn.
Kids can shout their heads off into the convex centre of this polished egg by Ronald Westhuis, for the echoes and those funny hall-of-mirrors reflections.
Can you see what it is yet? Yes, it’s a giant pink door hook, nicknamed Paul.
Come for coffee on the terrace, a Mediterranean-style lunch or make a stay of it in the hotel which has covetable objet d’art everywhere and 8 extremely lovely rooms. I took a quick peek, and yes you would want to stay here, and yeeeess a Muddy review is coming soon! And it’s dog-friendly. Cost: Adult £5; Under 16 £2; Family £11.50
Broomhill Sculpture Park, Muddiford, Barnstaple, North Devon EX31 4EX . Tel: 01271 850262 Open Mon – Sat 10am-5pm.
DEVON SCULPTURE PARK, MAMHEAD NR EXETER
Turns out the UK’s brand-newest open-air gallery is right here in Devon, set in 100 rolling acres of Capability Brown landscape gardens, near Exeter. Artist and owner Philip Letts, who’s known in the art world for his abstract photography from New York to Beiruit, has created two exhibitions: a mixed media indoor exhibition called Textures and an outdoor exhibition of conceptual art. Themes reflect his interest in human’s clash with Nature, asking you to think about climate extinction, rising water levels and deforestation.
People who know far more about art than me have described this seated figure musing over the rolling hills and Exe estuary as like Rodin’s The Thinker. Is he working out what to do about our current climate mess or being apathetic and just enjoying the nice view while it lasts? You decide, or if you want to know more, read my longer review here.
Devon Sculpture Park, Mamhead Park (South) Exeter, EX6 8HE. Open Weds – Sun 10am-4pm.
COCKINGTON SCULPTURE TRAIL, TORQUAY
Head to Cockington Village near Torquay for a free trail showcasing 19 local artists, many of whom work with recycled and home-spin materials. Here’s a nice stomp around Cockington’s lovely grounds, where you can grab an ice-cream and stumble across the artworks scattered about around the place, in the Stable Yard with its interesting craftspeople and blacksmith, and Walled Art Garden.
For the clueless, helpful signage explains the art, whether it’s Cockington’s director Marissa Wakefield’s feathery talismans, or Phil Dixon’s solar-systems which you can wind and spin using what looks like those handles from an old-fashioned whisk. Don’t miss Jo Golesworthy’s super-sized ceramics of pollen grain, upscaled so you can see what a tiny grain looks like in impressive detail. Great with kids – lots of the artworks are playful and fun – or without. Free entry.
Cockington Court Sculpture Trail, Cockington, Torquay TQ2 6XA. Tel: 01803 607230. Open 7am-7pm, dog-friendly. Car park charges apply.
STONE LANE GARDENS, CHAGFORD
Stone Lane Gardens is right on the edge of Dartmoor and houses an amazing 5-acre collection of more than 1000 birch trees, those graceful white-barked trees which TV garden designers are forever recommending for small plots. Here they come in great variety with pink and cinnamon-cinnamon-coloured bark, big and small and multi-stemmed. Every summer, the gardens host their Mythic Garden sculpture exhibition, a showcase for West Country artists, including well-respected types like Peter Randall-Page and Andrew Lagan. The Mudlets are warmly welcomed, and it’s a fantastically magical setting for them to explore, with all the handcrafted artistry rubbing up against the greenery in truly magical fashion. Cost: Adult £6; Children £2.50; Family £15.
Stone Lane Gardens, Stone Lane Gardens Stone Farm, Chagford, Newton Abbot TQ13 8JU. Tel: 01647 231311. Open 10am-6pm until 31 Oct.
Every year Trailart invites local artists, professionals, community groups and schools a chance to contribute to a sculpture trail, displayed on on Teignmouth’s sea front, with the aim of raising awareness about environmental issues through recycled art. The works are made from found materials and plastic waste, and cover troubling themes like plastic in the ocean, so just the thing for provoking good conversations with the kids. They have a drop-in gallery in Teignmouth’s indie art quarter and this their 15th year, they’re launching Terracycle – where you drop off your non-recyclable waste. Free entry.
TrailArt Teignmouth, The Den, Teignmouth TQ14 8BG. Open all day until 1 September.
Heather is famous for her stunning life-size sculptures of horses made from bronze and driftwood, which she collects from the Devon coast and estuaries. You might have seen the one on display at the entrance to the Eden Project. They’re amazing creatures, think National Theatre’s War Horse only instead of puppetry, their sinewy bodies are brought to life through careful selection of exactly the right piece of bleached wood. Though her garden isn’t open to the public, she has open days at the end of August/early September or you can visit her valley garden by appointment.
Heather Jansch, Blackdown Hills. Open by appointment on 07775 840513.
ELMER’S BIG PARADE, PLYMOUTH
If you’re in Plymouth this summer you can’t fail to spot Elmer – in fact 40 Elmers dotted around the ocean city, each one made colourful and unique by a a mix of local and national artists. They’re on parade for 10 weeks this summer, before being auctioned off to raise funds for St Luke’s Hospice who’re working with Wild in Art and Andersen Press to bring this family-friendly art trail to life. Pick up a map from the tourist info office or any St Luke’s charity shop and take your Elmer-loving littlie to get their selfie with Elmer while you can.
Elmer’s Big Parade, Plymouth. Open until Mon 16 Sept.