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.
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.
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
Great article by Juliet Dobson, Digital Content editor at BMJ 'Hospital gardens are making a comeback'. http://www.bmj.com/content/359/bmj.j5627
Faith Ramsay, garden designer and Chair of Thrive shares her presentation given at the Landscape Show, Battersea Park, September 2017 - How Garden Design and Therapeutic Horticulture can help with Mental Health.
A recent article posted by the Design Council paves a way for cities that promote rather than damage our mental health.
A research project that aims to find out more about how Sheffield’s natural environment can improve the health and wellbeing of city residents has launched a new website. http://iwun.uk
The charity Greenfingers, that creates inspiring gardens for children's hospices, recently began the second year of its A Million Moments Appeal. It aims to raise £1 million to enable another 5,000 children involved in hospice system to benefit from the outdoor spaces the charity creates.
If you run, or are considering starting a 'green space' project that benefits the local community, you may be eligible for funding from a scheme managed by Groundwork, the community charity with the green heart.
Gardeners already know the answer to the question posed by BBC News, but it's heartening to see the link between horticulture and health being discussed so thoroughly in the media.
The little-known medical history of hospital gardens has been the topic for a unique installation at the Chelsea Fringe Festival, 18 May-5 June 2015. ‘Taking a Turn’ has been developed by gardening therapist and garden designer, Rebecca Smith, to explore the mental health history of hospital gardens over more than 200 years.
Michael Connors, Director of Services at Penny Brohn and member of the LGHN management board shares the presentation he gave at the LGHN seminar in 2015. Michael discussed the role of the garden within the therapeutic program at Penny Brohn. He emphasized how an understanding of Ecopsychology (including mindfulness, eco-therapy and nature and soul) is integrated within the service provision at Penny Brohn. The garden, which is sustained by a strong volunteer team, provides a symbolic meta model for a ‘journey of transformation’ (the Hero’s Journey).
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