As I walk along the winding woodland path enjoying the warmth of the dappled sunshine, a new surprise is hiding around every corner. A gorilla made out of driftwood sits in quiet contemplation beneath the trees, a girl enthusiastically cuddles a polar bear, a skeleton mid backflip reaches up to the sky. And what a sky! The green of the trees, with a bright blue cloudless canopy overhead, forms the perfect backdrop for the stunning range of modern and contemporary works of art hidden around two miles or so of trails in The Sculpture Park in the village of Churt near Farnham in Surrey.
A great day out in Surrey at The Sculpture Park
Earlier that day we’d arrived at The Sculpture Park for our allotted one-hour entrance slot and made our way to reception as instructed by the signs. Following a brief introduction, we were given a map and set off exploring. Following a year in and out of lockdowns, it felt like a mini-adventure!
Two hours later, we had only walked about a third of the trails but we had already seen a fabulous array of sculptures by artists from around the world, ranging from the beautiful to the humourous, the magical to the bizarre, even baffling. One of the most impressive, if only for its size, was a gigantic dragon made out of horseshoes. Humourous pieces included the acrobatic skeletons found dancing, somersaulting, riding a penny-farthing as well as getting into some hair raising scrapes dotted around the park.
In its setting amongst the trees, this backflipping skeleton by Wilfred Pritchard seems to me to be celebrating life, even after death!
Rutting Stags by James Doran-Webb
Two glorious stags – heads down, horns interlocked – are vying for supremacy beside the footpath. This one-of-a-kind sculpture made of driftwood by James Doran-Webb is stunning. Originally from Devon, Doran-Webb has lived many years in the Philippines enjoying the outdoor adventures the archipelago has to offer including hiking, biking and kayaking amongst the remotest islands. It is on the shores of these stunning beaches that his network of gatherers collects driftwood in exchange for a much-needed income.
A former Iron Man twice over, Doran-Webb runs a number of community projects in the Philippines including an ambitious tree replanting project. The Philippines has a strong tradition of arts and crafts, as I discovered for myself when I visited a couple of years ago. Bantayan Crafts, is another project, close to Doran-Webb’s heart, empowering the wives of fishermen by training and mentoring them in a tourist related crafts and souvenir enterprise.
His sculpture of two rutting stags was one of my favourites in the park, sadly my garden isn’t close to big enough to home it, even if I could afford it but what a joy to see it in this woodland environment.
Having taken a break to eat a picnic we had brought with us, we continued exploring for a further hour and a half or so. By this time, I’d filled up my phone’s memory card and couldn’t take any more photos. Even though we still hadn’t quite walked all the trails, I was happy to leave. I hadn’t expected to spend over four hours here. We’d both had a magical day out. My sister couldn’t stop telling me how much she’d enjoyed it. I know I’ll be back, maybe in the summer or autumn, and was happy to save part of the park yet to be discovered.
About The Sculpture Park
The Sculpture Park is a family run business created 18 years ago in a 10-acre site in a natural valley. The sculptures blend beautifully into the woodland slopes and dotted around three small lakes fed by natural springs.
Most of the sculptures in the park are for sale and many have QR Codes on their plaques which you can scan with your smartphone to see the price. While some sculptures are permanent fixtures, others are periodically changed. The owner, a sculptor himself, is an avid collector. Members of his family also exhibit work in the park. As well as a showroom in the village of Churt, I’ve heard that there is a warehouse full of sculptures they don’t have room to display.
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Visiting The Sculpture Park, Churt, Surrey
Tickets can be booked in advance here and currently cost £11.20, including Eventbrite’s booking fee.
The park’s address: Corner of Jumps Road and Tilford Road, Churt, Nr Farnham, Surrey GU10 2LB (opposite the Bel and the Dragon pub and hotel).
The nearest railway stations are at Farnham or Haslemere, both of which are a 10-minute taxi ride away. While there is a bus service that will take you a little nearer this option requires that you walk part of the way to the park along a road without any pavement so is not recommended.
The park is not suitable for wheelchair users. For those with limited mobility, there is a short step-free route around the lakes that still allows you to see over 300 sculptures. However, the ground is not level and can be quite rough in places and has some areas of loose gravel.
For more information about visiting, please read the park’s website, The Sculpture Park.
There are no refreshments provided in the park but you are welcome, as we did to bring a picnic. You’ll find a seating area between the start of the red trail and exhibit 340. It’s the area marked on the map as a circular area labelled with a large yellow U shaped arrow. It’s a shame it isn’t labelled on the map as a picnic area or that a water fountain isn’t provided. Even the toilets aren’t marked on the map but you’ll find them by the reception. That being said, these have to be the only criticism I could make about the park. It is absolutely fantastic and a great day out for young and old alike, as long as you are fit enough to cope with the winding trails up that meander up and down with stairs in several places.
There are numerous benches that often look like sculptures and while you should not touch any of the sculptures, I’m told that if it looks like a bench, you can sit on it.
There’s a small parking bay at the entrance to the park that fills up quickly. We were told, that you are also allowed to park in the pub car park just across the road. Once this is full there is roadside parking but please do park carefully and with respect for others.
The pub, Bel and the Dragon, Churt has an excellent reputation and no doubt gets a lot of trade from the park. It is easy to leave the park to take a break for some refreshments at the pub before reentering the park. It is currently open for drinks from 9.30 am to the early evening and for lunch from noon but it is recommended to book in advance. Please check with their website for up to date information.
Where to stay near The Sculpture Park
There are 18 beautifully furnished rooms at Bel and the Dragon, Churt, just across the road from the entrance to the park. The Devil’s Cradle, a minutes or twos walk around the corner, is a delightful lodge, sleeping two, that can be booked on a bed and breakfast basis or self-catering basis. Both Bel and the Dragon and The Devil’s Cradle have an excellent reputation.