Unicorn in a big park……..my kind of art!

Sculpture was never top on my list of things to be excited about on childhood visits to museums and art galleries.

An 18th bronze reproduction of some meaningless person did nothing to excite me or generate a love of this art form.

Well fast forward 40 or more years and it’s a different story. In keeping with the tradition of ‘if you have something good on your doorstep don’t bother visiting it as it will still be there next week ‘, I had still not got around to visting the Yorkshire sculpture park despite it having been in existence for all the time I have lived in ‘God’s own county’.

A recent visit opened my eyes to this place and made me wonder, why never before?

It is 500 acres of magnificent parkland in pleasant rural West Yorkshire. Sheep are grazed on the land and they seem to successfuly co-exist with thousands of daily visitors and quite a few dogs (on leads).

The sculpture and array of other exhibits is amazing and often on a grand scale..at the moment there is a Damien Hurst exhibition on with some truly giant and slightly haunting exhibits.

Some of the images are a little haunting…this image below of the child with polio was a familiar sight in the UK in the 60′ and 70’s. A best intentioned way of trying to raise awareness and collect funds, but even so…maybe not the best approach.

You will find it hard to see everything in one visit. We combined walking in the parkland, enjoying refreshments on the outdoor terrace, and photographing this array of images ..although really you have to be there…!

It’s a definite one to return to repeatedly to see the changing exhibits and I look forward to experiencing it in different seasons. Might substitute the cold drinks with hot chocolate on our forthcoming planned winter visit!

Oh and by the way, it is completely free to visit, just a car park charge.

Just add salt…

The town of Saltaire just north of Bradford in Yorkshire was founded by philanthropist and mill owner Titus Salt.

Salt had mills in the city of Bradford but decided to build a large new textile mill, known as Salts Mill and create an entire model village on the banks of the River Aire, near Shipley.

This allowed him to provide much improved accommodation for his workers away from the slums of the city.

The name Saltaire derived from his name and the name of the local river, the River Aire.

Salt created a village of stone houses for his workers with running water, bath houses and even a hospital and an institute for recreation and education.

The village also had a school for the workers children, allotments for the families to grow fresh vegetables, almshouses and a park.

In December 2001, Saltaire was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

So what now…rather than just be a preserved relic of past Victorian ideals, Salts has a vibrant new life.

The mill is home to art by way of permanent exhibitions of Yorkshire artist David Hockney’s work, a truly amazing book shop and some other specialised retailers.

This is no ordinary bookshop..on the ground floor of the mill it has a cathedral like feel, grandeur and ambience.

On the higher floor, a more esoteric style where presentation and space is the emphasis.

Every window provides a backdrop of Salts vision..rather than a shopping mall, retail park or mundane high street.

I can’t think of many bookshops adorned with fresh lillies!

Everywhere in the building there is evidence of both Hockney and the original purpose of the building and this just adds to the magic of the place.

Salts mill draws the crowds for its history, the books, the art and even the restaurant and tea shop.

I visit regularly – its a great place on a winter sunday, a rainy summers day or whenever the mood draws you.

If you are visiting West Yorkshire it’s a “must do” visit. A great example of getting preservation just right.

Salts is very alive with many one off events and opportunities to embrace books, music and art in a wonderful setting…oh and yes it’s completely free other than special events.

Sure you have to buy books if you want to take them home..but otherwise it’s there to enjoy!

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Salsa with cows

Little did John Constable the artist realise that he put the beautiful river stour and the hamlet of Flatford Mill and the village of Dedham well and truly on the map.

This sleepy and pretty riverside area on the Suffolk and Essex border in Eastern England is visited by many …some to see the unchanged scenes painted all those years ago such as Willy Lott’s cottage,

Flatford Mill and the riverside meadows also featured in many paintings. Others visit just to enjoy the countryside almost unchanged from the days of Constable.

Last weekend visiting family who live in the nearby area we too decided to enjoy the area and walk and picnic by the river. The weather was perfect, the wasps were confining themselves to sharing drinks at the nearby pub, and we were a well prepared group with picnic rugs and copious supplies of food. What we hadn’t prepared for were the cows. Now I too live in the country and have a healthy respect for cows, particularly when with their calves and we stay well clear when dog walking to avoid frightening them, disturbing them or even being perceived to be invading their territory.

Now at Dedham the herd seem to have been there a while and know the score. Totally unperturbed by dog walkers, noisy children, people launching dinghies into the River but what they have mastered is picnic raiding! And this is not collective herd tactics.. it is one stubborn bullock. He was determined to have some salad, then bread, as we desperately tried to scoop up plates, wrappers and indeed anything that might cause real harm, he then emptied the Bombay mix container and finished it by licking out an entire jar of salsa.

Nothing would move him. It was only when everything was removed he gave a final lick of his lips, a cursory glance at the devastation he had left and moved on up the field to the next unsuspecting victim.

Now this individual gave the impression this is tried and tested cow behaviour for generations of animals in this area. It does make me wonder if amongst the well known paintings of Constable such as The Haywain, Flatford Mill or Dedham Lock there is an unknown hidden and lost masterpiece ….’The Cow eating Salsa ‘. For sale at an auction room near you shortly.

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