Staying on a short break near Settle in Yorkshire last week we found Austwick Hall perched above a pretty Dales village not far from the market town of Settle. Set in 13 acres the garden and woodland had just had its open day for the NGS during the snowdrop Festival.
Close by the house the garden has been terraced and the columnar row of Juniper ‘sky rocket’, the perfect alternative to the cypress seen all over Italy, gives that familiar Italian feel to the place.
The sculptures are contemporary and created, mostly, by local artists. The shapely ceramic vase raised on a wooden plinth was created by Ken Jaquiery who lives nearby. It sits elegantly on the front terrace.
We climb up the stone steps towards the solid sundial situated on the lawn. The recent snowfall has delayed the Spring tidy-up but it is really for the some 50 varieties of snowdrops that we have come.
Before climbing up the steep bank behind the garden we walk left along the path which leads through the log moon gate.
Placed on the lawn and looking back towards the house is the fun wooden ‘Wave bench’ by Tom Nicholson Smith.
The garden rises steeply up to a woodland area and colourful Cornus fill the lower ground.
Looking up, the elegant high backed bench seems to beckon us up the hill,
and on the ascending path we pause at another creation by Ken Jaquiery, ‘Wrapped Form’.
From the bench we can for a moment enjoy the view and look out over the garden towards the Yorkshire Dales where patches of snow still lie in the distant fields.
Behind us the the old deciduous beech tree, knobbly and gnarled, is a sculpture itself.
The majestic metal ‘Stag’ stands amongst snowdrops, its outline so realistic, it was created by Andrew Kay an award winning Cumbrian artist.
We are in the woodland now and have to decide which path to take;
we are drawn towards Sarah Smith’s ‘Inner Rhythm, Hidden form’, solid, it is carved from the local Yorkshire limestone.
The sun has appeared. The birdsong around us is glorious and out over the velvety mossy-covered stone wall we can glimpse the rhythm of the landscape beyond.
An ivy covered branch forms a natural archway. In some areas the woodland floor will shortly be a riot of wild daffodils followed by the bluebells that are quietly growing.
In a small dell is another sculpture by Sarah Smith, serene it catches the sunlight.
A moss-covered Giant’s Causeway, its soft green texture is accentuated by vertical bare trunks of the trees.
Nestling between the trees and neatly tucked up is ‘Reflection’ by Gavin Roweth.
It is a wonderful wood, filled with natural features; paths wind up and down and circuit an ancient rocky outcrop,
whilst the contemporary sculptures add a modern dimension; ‘Sentinel’ by David Pearson stands tall and square,
contrasted by just further on the smooth swirls of ‘Source’ by Susheila Jamieson.
It is not just the natural landscape that provide a variety of shapes, colours and textures; there are the sculptures that vary from abstract to the representational. The face is hidden but the gesture says it all; ‘Growing Pains’ is by Sarah Smith.
Sally Grant’s striking ‘Remembering Head’ angled and raised on a plinth,
like many of the pieces, is placed to be enjoyed from several directions.
The path descends, as it has done from time immemorial, and in my intent to follow
I nearly missed the ‘Baboon’ by Tony Evans perched up high.
The next is like two sculptures, the back so very feminine and the front a confusion of limbs. A small piece, it is ‘Crouching Figure’ by David Pearson,
Descending through the snowdrops, mossy rocks and trees,
we come to the final sculpture, Rob Watson’s ancient looking ‘Slate Form’.
A garden visit at this time of year is not about the best blooms in the borders; it is about the bare bones, the structure of nature’s design. At Austwick snowdrop and sculpture is a pleasing combination and the natural woodland with its variety and form provides the perfect space in which to display these creations. Everyone knows what a snowdrop is and as I duly purchased my Galanthus woronowii I was delighted to see a party of school children ascend the rugged path. What fun they will have and what better way to introduce the young to the pleasures of garden visiting.