With its winding trails and breathtaking coastline, the South Downs National Park is always worth a trip. Now there is even more reason to visit with the opening of a new sculpture trail. Art lovers and nature lovers alike will find plenty to enjoy as they wander between seven of the area’s heathlands, taking in a range of beautiful sculptures along the way.
The project aims to educate visitors about the importance of conserving local heathland, an incredibly rare habitat that makes up just 1% of the National Park’s area. The sculptures themselves are extremely eclectic, carved from sandstone and inspired by everything from local wildlife to the poetry of Alfred Tennyson.
The trail is heavily focused on education, and each of the seven sculptures is fitted with a QR coded plaque. Visitors can scan the code which will give them access to a video about the sculpture and the heathland that it relates to.
Perhaps the most striking carving is named the Sheeppig. Inspired by a 17th-century map of the area which appeared to depict animals standing on top of each other, award-winning sculptor Graeme Mitcheson created the piece as a tribute to the region’s history.
The trail can be followed via a downloadable map and covers seven heathlands in total – Lavington Plantation, Shortheath Common, Wiggonholt, Stedham Common, Black Down, Graffham Common, and Woolbeding. The project is being led by Heathlands Reunited, along with the RSPB, the National Trust, Hampshire County Council and the Sussex Wildlife Trust. Heathlands Reunited Engagement and Activities Officer Katy Sherman is pleased with how the project is going so far:
‘We’re very excited to have all the carvings in place and have already had some great feedback – many people wanting to pose with the artwork for photographs. The whole ethos behind this trail is to encourage people to learn more about their local heathland and how they are all linked as one habitat.’
At one time, the area’s heaths were far more linked, and Katy hopes that the project will remind people of this:
‘Historically these sites were more joined up and we hope this trail helps people see this incredible landscape as a whole – and why it’s worth saving!’