20 November 2010

The Pride of the Valley Sculpture Park

If you go down to the woods today,
You're sure of a big surprise.

So goes the song, but don't expect too many teddy bears where we are going today.  Rather, raise your expectations to include dinosaurs, elephants and all sorts of outlandish creations. The woodlands of England are playing host to the sight of some rather different cretaures.

Churt is a tiny village in the English county of Surrey and has most of the features you would expect from a centuries long established village in this part of the country – as well as something entirely unexpected.  Just outside the village boundaries lies the Pride of the Valley Sculpture Park, a place of unanticipated arty pleasure.

The park is effectively an outdoor gallery which, for sculpture, serves as an ideal pastoral setting.  The sculptures are all found next to or nearby a two kilometre pathway which meanders so that the visitor alights on a new sculpture almost by surprise.

You may need to watch your step a little - you never quite know what to expect when you turn the next corner.  The sight of angels consoling each other perhaps or the occasional gorilla exiting his undergroung lair in search of lunch - neither should not be too much of a surprise.  

What makes Pride of the Valley different from many sculpture parks around the globe is that it does not hold a fixed set of sculptures – its purpose is to display the work of over 150 sculptors and – if you like the work – you can buy it.

Many pieces are made from a single piece of stone or wood.  Others are a collection and you may have to work on it a little.  One piece adds to another.

Until the whole picture is finally revealed.

Of course, these prices are out of the reach of many and most visitors do use the park as a kind of outward bound museum with a rotating set of exhibits, many of which are new to the second time visitor. 

The park speciality is modern and contemporary sculpture, so you will not find anything much older than twenty year within its confines but are virtually guaranteed something to thrill (if you enjoy modern works of art, of course).

This is most certainly not Sparta. The sculptors are both famous and little known with space given for local artists looking to make a reputation for themselves in this field as well as more established names.

Over two hundred different pieces of art are to be found at the park, too many to show here.  Yet what brings the visitors returning to the Pride of the Valley is the fact it is outdoors, forever changing and truly innovative and fascinatingly composed.

The walk is not a maze but you may at first be mistaken for thinking this – but the wooded area serves the sculptures beautifully.  There are three small lakes in the park too, which add to its allure.  And you will not be overrun by other visitors either.

If your tastes are eclectic, you will almost certainly be in your element here.  A surprise awaits around each and every corner, such is the number of sculptures.

The Pride of the Valley Sculpture Park is little known – a best kept secret as it were – and it is true in many ways that it is not designed for the casual visitor looking to kill an hour with the kids.  This is a place for those (young and old alike) with an affinity for modern sculpture whether as an individual – or if the family is collectively inclined – as a tribe.

You may be looking for the off the wall, the bizarre.  In which case you will have come to the right place.

Alternatively,if you are looking for a modern take on the age old scultpor's aim of imitating the beauty of life, you will not be disappointed either. The Pride of the Valley is a special place, so next time you are near Churt, take time out for a short detour.