Visiting the Yorkshire Sculpture Park (YSP)
Sculpture and Nature Combined
The Yorkshire Sculpture Park is roughly 500 acres in size and attracts visitors from all walks of life and from around the world. Set in gently rolling hills and undulating farmland near the higher Pennine hills, all manner of high-quality sculptures stand beside trees and on thick grass. Sheep graze next to Henry Moore classics. Canada geese sit peacefully among contemporary installations.
Yorkshire is England's largest county and sits stubborn and grand, slap bang in the middle of the country. This part of Yorkshire was once the coal mining capital of the country, and it was here that one of the world's most famous sculptors was born. His name was Henry Moore. The son of a coal miner, he went on to become a renowned and innovative sculptor, and there are several of his works on display in the park.
Background of the Yorkshire Sculpture Park
If you're a first time visitor to this park, I recommend spending a whole day getting to know it inside out! You'll have woods to walk through, a huge lake to take in and perimeter walks to negotiate, plus several galleries and open-air pieces to visit.
From a distance, you can be fooled into thinking that the gentle wooded slopes and surrounding green fields are just countryside, beautiful old English farmland. You see the lake and river, and as you get closer, stone walls and rather large buildings. A path leads you past an arrangement of metal cylinders lying in a meadow. What are they? Who put them there? Then you set eyes on what can only be described as an enormous mansion of cream stone.
Welcome to the sculpture park, a huge estate once owned by a wealthy man by the name of Wentworth who rebuilt the house and created the modern, managed grounds. The history of the place is just wild; Henry VIII is said to have visited when the old hall was still standing back in the 16th century!
As is the way with the aristocracy, times got a little too hard for them, so they had to sell the mansion in 1947 to a local council. Since then, the building and estate have been more or less in the public domain.
The advantage of being in a sculpture park is that you can completely take off once you've had enough of the sculptures! If you're the quiet type, there's plenty of open space to get lost in. If you want a drink, treat yourself to a wine or a Treacle Stout, which is brewed locally. Kick a ball around, run with the dogs and the hares and rabbits. Talk to a cow. Walk up to higher ground and take it all in—the huge oaks, the clattering jackdaws, the greenery.
The landscape somehow tolerates the sculpture. There isn't too much of a clash. The atmosphere is rich, creative, fun and inviting. I see the whole spectrum here, from babies in a buggy to silver-haired professors studying the latest from James Turrell.
How I Learned to Appreciate Sculpture
Sculpture is something I've grown to love over the last 10 years or so. Living close to the Yorkshire Sculpture park has heightened my senses when it comes to looking at a piece of work. I can now appreciate what an artist is trying to achieve, even if I don't like what's in font of me.
Before the YSP came into my life, I was somewhat on the fence about sculpture. Sculpture as an art form was perhaps just a block of marble or statue or a classical figure. Now, being informed, I can relate contemporary pieces to what's gone before. I'm more confident when looking at a piece of work.
Having this sculpture park to roam around in has also given me new insights into nature—the shapes and textures that abound in a wood (or even in a single tree), the way rocks handle a stream, how things grow and mature.
Above all, I think I've learnt about how sculptors take different materials and work them into incredible shapes. From polished granite to embroidered costume, from great monoliths of rusty iron to intricate, crafted paper models.
Sculpture is about using the hands to shape any kind of material into what is in the artist's soul.
How to Get to the YSP
YSP is roughly three hours from London by train, four hours by coach. Head for the city of Wakefield. The nearest airport is Leeds-Bradford. From here you can get to the park in about 90 minutes.
You can get to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park by train. Coaches also run regularly between major cities and Wakefield. From Wakefield, buses go directly into the park.
Going by Car?
Park up for free in the small village of West Bretton, a 10 minute walk away from the entrance. The walk takes you through quiet picturesque lanes, past the very English cricket ground and down into the tree lined avenue of YSP.
The YSP Is Between the Cities of Sheffield and Wakefield
All photographs by chef-de-jour unless otherwise stated.
© 2013 Andrew Spacey