[THIS WEEK] Now there’s two more reasons to visit Cumbria, writes James Pallister
‘How we engage with landscapes and forests is shifting.’ Peter Davis was speaking at the Grizedale sculpture trail, the Forestry Commission-run arts organisation he set up in 1977. In his day it was all about keeping up with the foresters. David Nash and Richard Harris set the precedent for subsequent sculptors’ residencies – the artists wanted to get up as early as the foresters, handle a chainsaw just as well as them, and know their spruces from your saplings.
Today, arts offerings are a familiar tool in attracting visitors to Forestry Commission estates. The latest two additions to Grizedale’s permanent works are by artist collective Greyworld and architect Muf. Along a tarmacked woodland pathway – the only one of its type in the Lake District – Greyworld’s The Clockwork Forest is a series of large brass clockwork keys that skewer path-side tree trunks. Winding them makes a nearby speaker emit a tune, like a ballerina music-box. All but one of the six keys is drilled through living trees, and so the tree will grow around it, the key gradually rising as the tree shoots upwards.
Curator Hayley Skipper describes the aim of the Muf commission as ‘to hit people right between the eyes with the concept of working in the forest’. And so, in the forecourt of the visitor centre is the enormous trunk and root of a fallen tree, propped up on steel supports, parallel to the ground. Very simple – a tree in a car park. But what a tree! Clay and rocks cloy the partially intact roots system; mushrooms, mould and lichen cling and sprout from the trunk, and foxgloves and weeds reach skywards. The tree has not been treated and will eventually rot, just as the woodland has gradually reclaimed work made by many artists there before.
Visit Grizedale Forest, Grizedale, Hawkshead, Ambleside, Cumbria, LA22 0QJ grizedalesculpture.org