Bretton Hall Park

The Yorkshire Sculpture Park occupies the grounds of Bretton Hall once a stately home, then a college, now……I’m not sure what. Aside from the sculptures there is some pleasant walking to be had, and a few odd structures dating back to the days of Lord and Lady Muck. A very pleasant walk can be had around the park.

Miro crow

This crow was hopping about scavenging around the Miro sculptures, rivalling them for sleek blackness, but, truth be told, much more handsome.

We dropped down the hill and wandered around the far bank of the reservoir. There were spots of rain in the cold breeze, and the water was black and forbidding, taking it’s lead from the sky, but swallows were skimming the surface, the first I’d seen this year. By an inlet a pair of Canada geese were building a downy nest…

Nest making 

…and testing it for comfort.

And testing 

A sign pointed out an alternative route avoiding a field grazed by highland cattle. But, we’re not scared of them. Are we?

Angry local... 

This cow seemed a bit agitated, but was heading in the opposite direction to us. At least, I thought it was, but something made me look behind a few moments later, to find it cantering towards us, head down, on a collision course for TBH. I yanked her aside and we made a swift exit. Made the pulse raise a tad, I don’t mind admitting.

TBH spotted a stoat (or a weasel) close by and we were able to watch it bouncing in and out of the longer grass for a few moments. Couldn’t get a photo though. Later, on the journey home, when we were driving along the road which crosses Warton Crag, a rabbit was movingly rather oddly in the middle of the road. It transpired that it was being carried by a stoat. I pulled over and we watched in the rear-view mirrors as the stoat at first abandoned the rabbit and then returned to retrieve it.

In the woods by the lake there was a fine display of bluebells, and, in the damper spots, of shiny marsh marigolds. Some birch leaves had emerged, limp and pale.

I thought these fungi, growing from a substantial log, were highly attractive. They look like a Pholiota species, perhaps Pholiota aurivella, but that and other Pholiotas are listed as being late summer or autumn fruiting, so…..probably not. Any suggestions?


The path around the lake has a rather sad shell grotto (although I suspect that the kids would love it), a boathouse now marooned in dry land, an obelisk marking the site of an older hall building. Also, a rather fancy well or spring…

Lady Eglinton's Well 

…and a Greek Temple folly…

'Greek Temple' Folly

Bretton Hall Park

Wakefield Sculpture Tour

Hepworth Gallery

Our trip to Barnard Castle was the precursor to another raid in our guerrilla campaign to explore the UK a weekend at a time. Leaving the kids at the in-laws in Crook (Pieland!), we took the Great North Road down to Wakefield for two days and one night of culture.

First stop: the new Hepworth Gallery. Ol’ big-ears would probably think the boxy, grey building a carbuncle, but I liked it. The full length windows give great views out onto the river Calder, the Calder and Hebble navigation, and the weir between them, where a couple of herons were patiently fishing.

Heron in the weir

The gallery itself is well worth a visit. It has lots of Barbara Hepworth stuff, as you might expect – sculpture, working models, tools; also art by many of her friends and contemporaries from her time in St. Ives, including work by both of her husbands – John Skeaping and Ben Nicholson; exhibitions of more recent works; the Gott collection of Yorkshire paintings; and a set of sketches of Stonehenge by Henry Moore, who, like Hepworth, was born locally.

I love Hepworth’s hollowed forms and they were the draw which brought us here, but it’s this painting from the Gott collection which I think will stay with me from this visit. It was painted in 1793 by Philip Reinagle. This reproduction really doesn’t do it justice.

Wakefield Bridge

The bridge, and the chancery chapel, are still there, right outside the gallery, although of course everything else has changed. A busy road crosses a functional modern bridge adjacent to this one, and the cows are gone, replaced by industrial estates and retail outlets (nothing you might call a shop). We popped into the chapel and found four women working on large mosaics which “have to be finished for tomorrow”.

To be honest, modern Wakefield is not pretty, but the Travelodge was spruce, smart and cheap and we ate really well – an evening meal at an Italian restaurant called Rustico and breakfast at Cafe 19, which was decorated with balloons, smelled of fresh paint, and where we were the first customers of their very first day. (If you happen to be in Wakefield it’s very close to the Travelodge, the breakfast is excellent, and ridiculously cheap. TBH tells me that the cakes are good too.)

From Wakefield it’s only a few miles to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park….

Yorkshire Sculpture Park

…we’ve been here a few times now. The park covers a sweep of hillside with reservoirs below, galleries and sculptures dotted about and another gallery on the far hillside opposite. We’ve never made it to the Longside Gallery which is the building in the centre of the picture above, and one thing I was looking forward to was being able to walk there and back without having to worry whether it was too far for the kids. Sadly, we still haven’t been over there, since the gallery was closed. We’ll just have to go back for the Anish Kapoor exhibition which opens in June.

We did have a good walk around the reservoirs (of which more in the next post).

The principal exhibition at the moment is of Joan Miro sculptures and lithographs. There’s a lot of works by other artists in the park, including many by Moore. I took lots of photos. Here’s a slideshow for those who are interested.

I’ve added details of artists to each photo (where I know). You might have to go to the flickr page and click on the relevant photo to see that.

What will really stick in my mind from this visit is the installation ‘Still’ in the chapel in the park, by the artist Jem Finer. He can tell you about it much better than I can…

Jem Finer: Still from Yorkshire Sculpture Park on Vimeo.

When we saw some details about ‘Still’ in the visitor’s centre, I said to TBH: “Wasn’t Jem Finer one of The Pogues?”. I’m not sure that she was convinced, and was inordinately pleased to find that I was right. He’s come through the experience in much better shape than Shane McGowan. I realised later that I’d previously read about his subsequent career, and in particular about Long Player, a one thousand year composition. Without doubt my happiest memory of a gig is of The Pogues at Slosky’s in Manchester in the mid-eighties. A rare night.

Wakefield Sculpture Tour

Delight: Autumn Leaves

No surprise for anyone who has read this blog before to discover that I quite like leaves. The blog is about, as TBH puts it: ‘leaves and stuff’. But even for those of us who don’t spend their time obsessively photographing leaves there are endless enjoyments to be had from autumn leaves: rucking them up with your feet or crunching through them, composting them, admiring their colours, and….throwing them around. This leaf shower – akin to one of Andy Goldsworthy’s ephemeral throws – caused great amusement, but then descended into a leaf fight.

It seems to me that the autumn colour in the UK is better this year than it has been for many years. I’m sure that there is an explanation for why. This photo, taken at the YSP on a very dull afternoon (as was the one above), doesn’t really demonstrate my point too well.

Delight: Autumn Leaves

Yorkshire Sculpture Park

I’m way behind as ever. In the last week of October (half-term) we had a number of days out with the kids. One was spent at YSP, which we’ve visited many times before. We’ve been particularly keen to visit of late because of the large retrospective exhibition of works by David Nash.

Children (ours and pthers) play hide and seek amongst a David Nash sculpture.

To me (and I think to TBH) two of the most interesting works Wooden Boulder and Ash Dome could only, by their natures, be represented here by films. (I knew of these two because of the chapter on David Nash in Roger Deakin’s ‘Wildwood’). But there was an awful lot more to see.

Charred David Nash sculpture and action man S. Try charging around like that in an art gallery!

Not only an overwhelming quantity of David Nash stuff but also the permanent exhibition of sculpture by the likes of Henry Moore and Anthony Gormley. Last time we came we were particularly struck by these giant hare-women by Sophie Ryder, but didn’t take photos.

Strange. But strangely compelling.

Yorkshire Sculpture Park