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A woodland garden of eclectic sculptures in the rolling Surrey Hills
The Sculpture Park in Churt boasts the world’s largest all year sculpture exhibition. Visit Surrey describes it as the most atmospheric sculpture park in Britain. With descriptions like this, it naturally made it to my “must-see” list when I spent five weeks house-sitting in the area.
Churt is located on the western edges of Surrey between Farnham and Haslemere. The area is part of the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Beauty. The natural landscape makes a beautiful backdrop for the more than 800 pieces of 20th Century, Modern, and Contemporary Sculpture. A two-mile trail meanders through heathland, woodlands, and water gardens. Art surrounds you wherever you are on that trail.
Eddie Powell, owner and curator of The Sculpture Park, is a leading U.K. art expert. He is also a sculptor himself working under the pseudonym Wilfred Pritchard. He created the park as an opportunity for artists to show and sell their work in a unique setting while allowing the public to enjoy the art and the garden setting. The collection of sculptures is eclectic, ranging from beautiful to bizarre, comedic to thought-provoking.
As we set out to follow the path through the park, the woman in Reception told us to look up as well as around us. We didn’t have to look up far to notice the wind chimes on this path. They hummed a constant, soft, deep, soothing tone which reminded me of Tibetan singing bowls. They came from Texas.
All of the pieces are for sale, which means content changes on a regular basis. (Most were priced well beyond my means!) Small wooden blocks in the earth contain numbers identifying the sculptures. Booklets listing the pieces of art by number are handed out at reception. We occasionally came across a wooden numbered block with no associated piece of art. We guessed the piece had recently been sold. In a couple of other cases, the description of the piece didn’t match the artwork itself. Most likely, a new piece had been installed, but the booklet had not yet been updated.
I visited the park in winter. There was not the lush foliage one might expect in the summer, but the setting was still beautiful and serene.
Tips for Visiting
The Sculpture Park is open daily throughout the year (closed on Christmas Day). There is an entrance fee. Dogs on short leads are allowed. Parts of the path skirt the water’s edge and the water is deep. Parents are warned to ensure children take care. The path is uneven in places with stairs and inclines. A family visiting the same day as I did had one member in a wheelchair and a child in a pram (stroller). They were limited to seeing only portions of the park. There are toilet facilities at reception.
The park’s website recommended allowing two hours for your visit. We spent closer to three hours.
The Bel and Dragon Inn next door makes a good stop for refreshment before or after your visit. It has a large restaurant and a welcoming family-friendly bar where dogs are allowed. The menu is extensive and excellent. (Everything my friends and I ate when we visited was delicious.)
The Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Beauty has some of the most stunning countryside in southeast England. Green belt areas and woods abound near the Sculpture Park with many places for country walks, including Frensham Great Pond and Common, Little Frensham Pond, and The Devil’s Punchbowl.
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