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Jencks' giant woman of Northumberland completes

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Charles Jencks’ so-called Lady of the North, a 400m-long land-sculpture near Cramlington, Northumberland will open to the public on Wednesday (5 September)

Nicknamed Slag Alice, the £3million landscape was built with 1.5 million tonnes of earth mainly taken from the neighbouring open-cast mine at Shotton.

Owner the Banks Group hopes the attraction, billed as the world’s largest land sculpture in human form, will attract around 200,000 visitors a year to the 19 ha park.

American-born landscape architect Jencks, who co-founded the Maggie’s Centres, said the inspiration for the landform came ‘from the distant Cheviot Hills, which are pulled into the foreground by the curves and shapes of the female form used for Northumberlandia’.

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History

The idea for Northumberlandia originated in 2004 when the Blagdon Estate and the Banks Group were applying for permission to dig for coal and fire clay (for bricks) on farmland near the new town of Cramlington.

The Banks Group and Blagdon Estates recognised that, while recovering much needed coal for UK energy generation and providing local employment, there was also a unique opportunity to create a spectacular art form that would provide a legacy for future generations. So the consortium contacted the internationally renowned artist Charles Jencks to see what could be done – and Northumberlandia was born.

This project is known as restoration first – taking an extra piece of land donated by the landowner, the Blagdon Estate, adjacent to the mine and providing a new landscape for the community to enjoy while the mine is still operational. The £3 million cost of the project has been privately funded by the Banks Group and the Blagdon Estate.

In 2010 work began and 1.5 million tonnes of surplus soil and clay was transported from the mine to a neighbouring part of the estate to form Northumberlandia.

Once the major landscape works were complete the sculpture was blasted with ‘hydro seed’ which started to transform the sculpture into a living landscape. Her face, paths and viewing platforms were constructed with a hard stone surface with every feature surveyed and checked against carefully designed plans.

Rather than become a highly manicured landscape the park and sculpture will be allowed to develop naturally with minimal interference working within the grain of nature. The park will change with the seasons and mature over many generations.

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