For a new twist on the classic garden outings, why not visit a sculpture park? We reveal the sculpture gardens you really shouldn't miss this summer
Sculpture and gardens are a match made in heaven. “Sculpture looks fantastic in landscapes – especially, and perhaps surprisingly, 20th and 21st century works of art set in historic landscapes,” says Mary Miers, Fine Arts and Books Editor at Country Life and author of The English Country House. Which is why, in the last 10 years, there has been an enormous explosion in the number of sculpture parks in Britain. “It benefits the owners, who are looking for ways to attract new visitors, but also the sculptors, because many of the works that dot the gardens of private estates are actually for sale.” With so many art parks opening their doors, it may be daunting to choose which ones to visit, but Mary has given us the pick of the crop – the sculpture gardens you really shouldn’t miss this summer.
Image: Dawn Squares by Jordi Raga, William Peers and Paul Vanstone, courtesy of Asthall Manor
One of Britain's most important commissioning foundations, Cass displays work by established international artists alongside sculptures by emerging artists. The pieces, all monumental in scale, are set in 26 acres of glorious Goodwood grounds. For more details, see www.sculpture.org.uk.
Image: Dreamy Bathroom by Gary Webb, courtesy Cass Sculpture Foundation
"This is the sculpture garden everyone should really know about," says Mary. This pioneering open-air gallery was established in the 1960s on the grounds of historic Bretton Hall. "It is a huge open space and has fabulous works: Kemp, fantastic Henry Moore and temporary exhibitions." Plus, adds Mary, it has a fabulous restaurant and it's only a mile from the M1, so, rather than stopping at a service station on your way up North, you could take a little detour and wonder around this amazing park before having a slap-up meal." This summer, the Yorkshire Sculpture Park is also staging an exhibition of works by Ai Weiwei in the newly converted 18th-century chapel. For more details, see www.ysp.co.uk.
Image: Barbara Hepworth, The Family of Man, 1970. Courtesy The Hepworth Estate, Tate and YSP © Marc Atkins
One of the grandest, most traditional country houses and its historic landscape play host to cutting edge artwork - and the combination is surprisingly beautiful. "Chatsworth tends to go for very contemporary artwork," notes Mary. Some of the works are permanent, others rotate every few months - until 29 June you have a chance to catch the amazing, boldly-hued steel pieces by Michael Craig-Martin, while from 8 September to 26 October it will be the turn of Sothebys Beyond Limits, an exhibition of monumental pieces. For more details, see www.chatsworth.org.
Image: Umbrellas by Michael Craig-Martin, courtesy of Chatsworth
Most estates prefer to display contemporary art, but Newby Hall is different, says Mary: They also have historic pieces in the gardens, which is unusual, as most historic sculpture tended to be indoors - sculpture parks are a relatively modern phenomenon." This summer, however, the grounds of this fine Robert Adam country house will acquire an African flavour with an exhibition of striking Zimbabwean sculpture. For more details, visit newbyhallandgardens.com.
Image: Ellis The Chalice by David Williams, courtesy Newby Hall
Some estates hold sculpture exhibitions every second year and, in 2014, it's the turn of the fabulous On Form at Asthall Manor. "This quintessential Cotswolds Manor, which was the family home of the Mitford sisters, is really beautiful, with a lovely old church peeping over the garden wall," says Mary. Against this striking backdrop, "On Form acts as a showcase for the best stone sculptors in the country, with pieces dotted around the garden overlooking the Windrush river." The exhibition takes place from 8 June to 6 July. On Form won't run in 2015 but, says Mary, next year you'll be able to visit the exhibition at Quenington Old Rectory, another well established sculpture display "full of all sorts of fascinating things." For more details on On Form, visit www.onformsculpture.co.uk. For information on the Quenington Old Rectory fair, contact 01285 750 358.
Image: Blow by Szymon Oltarzewski, courtesy of Asthall Manor
Simon Gudgeon's monumental, bronze-cast sculptures, many of which portray animals, dot 26 acres of beautiful river landscape at Sculptures by the Lakes, in Dorset. "It's perfect for animal lovers," says Mary. For more details, visit sculpturebythelakes.co.uk.
Image: Embrace by Simon Gudgeon, courtesy Sculptures By The Lakes
Set in rolling parkland just outside Edingburgh, Jupiter Artland is "a showstopper" according to Mary. The works on show here, which include sculpture by Charles Jencks, Marc Quinn and Andy Goldsworthy, have been built on site, and they make the most of their relationship with the stunning landscape. For more details, see www.jupiterartland.org.
Image: Life Mounds By Charles Jencks, courtesy Callum Black/Wikimedia Commons
You can go on a sculpture trail along the fabulous grounds of this Guernsey manor, where more than 100 works are displayed against the idyllic setting of wild and formal gardens and two lakes. For more details, see www.artparks.co.uk.
Image: Bent Copper by David Corbett, courtesy Sausmarez Manor
Just outside Salisbury, the New Art Centre is the perfect example of how contemporary sculpture can work beautifully against the backdrop of a country house. Works by artists such as Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth and Edmund de Waal dot the landscape around 19th century Roche Court. All the pieces are for sale, and there are temporary exhibitions to further spice up the range. For more details, see sculpture.uk.com.
Image: The White Horse by Mark Wallinger, © the Artist, courtesy New Art Centre, Roche Court Sculpture Park
This Welsh estate is well worth visiting for its "small scale sculpture in lovely gardens," says Mary. Contemporary works by British artists are showcased in the Grade II listed Arts & Crafts grounds to great effect. For more details, see www.wyndcliffecourt.co.uk.
Image: The Gardens At Wyndcliffe Court, courtsey Andy Dingley/Wikimedia Commons