An exultation, an expression of joy, a road less travelled. Art and nature combine at the new contemporary Devon Sculpture Park
The first time I visited Devon Sculpture Park I got lost. Although their web site does give clear instructions on how to find your way through Haldon Forest, if this is unchartered territory a navigator alongside you probably helps. The rough entrance driveway and stumps of a recently felled plantation of Conifers equally adds to the sense of uncertainty and impending gloom. I had come here to look at the sculpture and also the Capability Brown Parkland. To my knowledge I cannot think of any other Brownian landscape that hosts contemporary sculpture. I was intrigued on both counts. We have several interesting sculpture parks in the West Country and many of the major gardens have regular displays of outdoor sculpture, our area is a rich and fertile ground of skilled exponents of this genre.
After the bumpy drive in the view to the east opens up, and any impending gloom lifts. Across the sloping fields the view is of the Exe Estuary. Very large majestic Cedars appear as you round the corner. A small 18th century chapel set alongside sheep pastures and gently curving fields suddenly begins to offer that sense of a classic English parkland, the kind that Capability was renowned for. I now wanted to explore, I wanted to see how a modern sculpture park with aspirations to demonstrate natural climate solutions in action could get its message across. The displays, some of which are intellectually challenging, are placed in and around the Parkland and concern themselves with the problems we face now with climate change and the destruction of our world. The Sculpture Park in its 120 acres has set out to face this challenge by developing expertise in rewilding. With selected animals grazing what was once manicured and artificially controlled, they can find a healthy relationship with the surrounding nature and wildlife. For me a refreshing change from other locations I could mention where gardens can sometimes feel over contrived. In the parkland Alpacas graze alongside 2 strains of Welsh mountain sheep, Tordu and Torwyn. These are conservation grazers which help to gradually make the parkland a more naturalistic and nature friendly garden. When the park and gardens were purchased by Philip and Cara Letts 6 years ago the original Brownian lakes were covered in pondweed. This has now been eradicated by introducing grass carp, a fish which feeds on the pond weed.
"Creative Minds ethos is that Creativity is an innate ability that we all possess, we believe it is important that we enable our participants to embrace their creativity and enjoy the creative process regardless of the results. It’s about having fun, being in the moment and exploring our creative side. As artists we truly believe that there is a creative side in all of us, and that connecting with it brings huge therapeutic benefits and a positive impact on our wellbeing. We focus on the therapeutic benefits of creativity. As Creative Minds artists we are trained to deliver art sessions that are accessible and empowering to all, our focus is always on the enjoyment of the creative process and not the outcome, which is so important in today’s outcome driven society. Many of our artists are inspired by nature throughout their practice and this then lends itself to some amazing natural and multi sensory sessions for the participants."
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A standard definition for art is 'art is emotion'. It should therefore be the case that art can and perhaps should affect our emotional wellbeing. Hopefully positively.
At Devon Sculpture Park we want to foster this link. We have double the motivation: firstly evidence supports that people de-stress in museums and galleries but also there is a sizeable movement around improving our wellbeing through 'time in nature'. As a leading UK Rewilding centre we specialise in the wellbeing of land and wildlife. The parkland is mesmerising.
We are all about 'art in nature'. Mamhead Park (South) was designed for it. The evidence is everywhere - with endless, mesmerising sea views framed so magically by Capability Brown, connected via a tunnel from the ice house all the way to the sea.
The Robert Adams Orangery has a dome that makes you giddy when you stare up at it. The Lake House reflects calmy off the Capability Brown lake. Rowing boats float among fish and birdlife.
Dozens of benches and chairs have been painstakingly positioned to promote sitting and relaxing; taking in the 'art in nature' while detoxing. After all, we have to live up to the inspiring engraving on one of our ancient pillars: 'Et in Arcadia ego' which translates to 'I am in paradise'.
Join us. The Capability Brown gardens and inaugural 'ART WILDED' exhibition, are open from Wednesday to Sunday, 10am - 4pm. Adults £12, children under 12 £6.
Every Wednesday we celebrate #WellbeingWednesday. We offer a freeafternoon Wellbeing walk for sculpture park visitors, meeting at The Terraces at 2pm. The short guided walk is designed to help us renew and reconnect taking in the art, gardens, vistas and waterways.
Companies, charities and healthcare organisations can bring team members for a few hours out. If you're a Wellbeing counsellor bring clients and run sessions outside or in our therapy rooms.
To arrange a Wellbeing visit contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit our website: https://devonsculpturepark.org/
The opportunity to physically connect with nature, to manually work with soil and sow and grow plants is rarely on the agenda for students at university. The indoor environments of academia do not usually lend themselves to going down the allotment for a couple of hours. Fresh air and the glow of healthy exercise when digging in manure is not, for students, generally where you would connect them to. Perhaps a work out at the gym, some yoga, a Pilates class is what provides the physical challenge. Certainly not a session of digging.
That is unless you happen to be a student at the University of East Anglia.
Silent Space continues to grow in ways I could never have imagined when I first approached a couple of head gardeners with the idea in 2016. It’s too early to share details of the exciting developments that lie ahead in 2019, but here’s a quick update on some of last year’s happenings.
During 2018, the steady trickle of gardens signing up to the project continued. Dedicating an area for silent visiting is proving to be particularly popular in these chaotic times. There’s nothing quite like the soothing sights and sounds of nature for taking us beyond the latest ‘shouty’ news headlines.
Given its position on a busy hospital site, Sobell House Hospice in Oxford introduces a remarkable amount of contact with nature for those patients who find it helpful. Thanks to an unusual fundraising event, a new extension currently under construction will provide the opportunity for even more, and in a rather special way.
Visiting the hospice in the weeks before Christmas, a time when few gardens are at their most welcoming, it was good to see the conservatory at Sobell House being used by patients and families as a place to talk. Extending out into one the small gardens and furnished with well-tended houseplants, there’s a sense of being surrounded and supported by nature even when it’s too cold to sit outside.
The doors of the well-equipped music room open on to the same garden. Here, music therapist Tom Crook helps patients to write their own songs – recording them on CDs to share with friends and family. For patients who use nature for inspiration, the garden is close at hand. Hannah, an art therapist supported by Sobell House Charity, also helps them to explore their creativity, often taking nature as a starting point.
Thank you to Eden on Prescription for allowing us to link to the information about the social prescribing projects going on at the Eden Project. Always exciting when a good idea becomes reality. Even more so when it's evident that it's making a difference.
Medical and landscape historian, Dr Clare Hickman brings us up-to-date with some of her activities during 2018
John Coakley Lettsom (1733-1810), physician, with his family, in the garden of Grove Hill, Camberwell, ca. 1786. Oil painting by an English painter, ca. 1786.. Credit: Wellcome Collection. CC BY
The Doctor’s Garden
Dr Hickman (https://drclarehickman.wordpress.com) is currently researching late Georgian gardens for a new publication with Yale University Press due in 2020. Her book will highlight the use of gardens by medical practitioners for knowledge creation, dissemination and the establishment of polite networks of influence.
Medical practitioners were ideally placed to capitalize on the fashion for botanical collecting and agricultural experimentation at the end of the eighteenth century because they had access to botanical training as part of their medical education and, for those at the top end of the profession at least, a reasonable disposable income.
The book will draw together examples of the design and use of institutional, semi-public and private gardens created during this period by professors, physicians, surgeons and apothecaries. In this way it will inform our understanding of gardens created by the emerging middle classes as well as highlight the extent of the involvement of medical practitioners in a range of botanical and agricultural activities.
Beginning with University botanic gardens, particularly the Leith Walk garden in Edinburgh and the Glasgow University physic gardens, where eighteenth-century medical students received training in botany, the text will consider how these spaces became configured as elite botanical teaching and research stations and how technicians, such as gardeners and artists, were integral to the success of their activities. It will also consider how the material culture and sensory experience of botanic teaching, with its specimens, illustrations and herbaria, corresponded to other forms of medical teaching, and in particular that of anatomy.
By comparing these University based gardens with botanic collections established through subscription and by private collectors, it will also consider how botanic knowledge was created and shared through a range of different types of garden. Examples will include the London Botanic Garden which was established by the apothecary William Curtis as a semi-public garden funded by subscription, as well as the design and use of domestic gardens, including that developed by Dr Coakley Lettsom with his botanically arranged beds, observatory and agricultural experiments in Camberwell, London.
We also thank Dr Hickman for sharing a link to 'Nature, Health and the Human: A brief sensory history' on which she worked with Dr Victoria Bates.
"Sensing Nature" has been a two-year research project, led by Dr Sarah Bell at the University of Exeter and funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. Using an in-depth qualitative approach, the project has aimed to improve the ways we understand, enable and promote more inclusive, multisensory nature experiences amongst people living with sight impairment. Sarah brings LGHN up to date with the project's progress this year.
Colin Porter from Landscape, Gardens and Health network was just one of the inspirational speakers at the recent Plant Network event held on 13th/14th September at the Eden Project in Cornwall.
Plant Network has shared information from the event on their website. Have a look at the range of presentations from Colin's work in a hospice garden to the concept of social prescribing which was explained by Heidi Morgan, Eden on Prescription Manager.
Image © Liz Ware
The Festival of Urban Landscapes was, as billed, ‘a small conference with a big difference’. John Little, Greenspace Manager at the Clapton Park Estate, Hackney, invited an outstanding group of speakers to Hilldrop, his family’s four-acre wildlife garden in Essex and then added great food and music to the mix. A fascinating bunch of people, passionate and knowledgeable about urban nature, signed up to hear what they had to say.
With ongoing pressures on our health and social care systems, now is the time to recognise the powerful contribution the arts can make to our health and wellbeing. Rachel Massey, Arts & Wellbeing Coordinator at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, explains more.
Wellbeing is something that affects us all, and thanks to an influx of self-help guides, courses and retreats on offer, wellbeing has become a bit of a buzzword! The hype is justified. Every year, one in four of us will experience a mental health problem; obesity levels are on the rise; and social isolation affects many, our ageing population in particular. The time has come to recognise how important it is to look after our mental and physical health.
New Vision for Mental Health is a new website that focuses on a central question: "What would our mental healthcare system look like if, knowing what we know today, it was redesigned from scratch?”
It looks to gather and provide answers to this question by taking a critical, informed and constructive look at the current mental health system, the concepts on which it rests and its constituent parts.
It explores ideas, insights and suggestions – from a wide range of individuals and organisations – that might, in time, lay the foundations for a new and quite different approach to mental healthcare.
And the site already references several items related to the theme of landscapes and gardens, including
It was the walled garden that did it….
When Anna Baker Cresswell’s beloved Mother was living with Parkinson’s Disease during the last years of her life, Anna gave up her job in London and moved back home to Northumberland to look after her. The walled garden there gave Anna snatched half hours of calm, control and order when the rest of her life had none.
Our lives are hectic and we often find it difficult to truly relax. As well-documented research demonstrates, time spent in nature can be very helpful. But could it be even more effective if we enjoyed it in silence? If, instead of allowing ourselves to be distracted, we made time to listen to the birds and the sounds of the breeze in the trees?
Thrive is the UK’s leading social & therapeutic horticulture charity.
Social and therapeutic horticulture is the process of using plants and gardens to improve physical and mental health, as well as communication and thinking skills. It also uses the garden as a safe and secure place to develop someone's ability to mix socially, make friends and learn practical skills that will help them to be more independent.
Using gardening tasks and the garden itself, Thrive horticultural therapists build a set of activities for each gardener to improve their particular health needs, and to work on certain goals they want to achieve.
The benefits of a sustained and active interest in gardening include:
• Better physical health through exercise and learning how to use or strengthen muscles to improve mobility
• Improved mental health through a sense of purpose and achievement
• The opportunity to connect with others – reducing feelings of isolation or exclusion
• Acquiring new skills to improve the chances of finding employment
• Just feeling better for being outside, in touch with nature and in the 'great outdoors'
Our London base is in the beautiful Battersea Park in South London. We maintain four gardens in Battersea Park where we run our therapeutic gardening sessions. Our sessions run from Monday – Friday from 10am – 3pm, structured like a working day. If you or someone you know could benefit from one of our programmes or you would like to know more, please call Ellen Hill on: 0207 720 2212
Following the Landscape, Gardens and Health network's successful September conference at Penny Brohn UK, Colin Porter returned to plant a tree on our behalf. 'We wanted to find a way of saying thank you to all our new friends and colleagues. What better way than to add another tree to their beautiful garden' he says.
'We found a perfect spot with views out to rolling fields and trees. Here, not far from an Atlas Cedar planted by The Prince of Wales in 2016, we planted a Japanese Cherry, Prunus 'Mount Fuji'.'
'A couple of the garden team asked me when next year's conference will be. It's not something we've talked about yet. But ask me again in the new year. If we can find a few more people to help, we might consider it. Do get in touch if you'd like to be involved.'
In November horticultural therapists from Thrive Birmingham will start a gardening programme for prisoners with mental ill health at HM Prison Hewell.
Funded by *Health in justice, Thrive will work with prisoners with mental health support needs in the prison garden once a week for a year.
We gather together news and events relating to landscapes, gardens and health. If you wish to contribute news or events please contact us.
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