Top 6 Socially-Distanced Sculpture Parks in the UK

Emily May

While many galleries across the country may be located indoors, there are also a wide variety of open-air locations to enjoy art. Check out our handy guide of the best outdoor sculpture parks and trails that have reopened around the country post corona, which will allow you to get some culture at the same time as enjoying the fresh air and summer sun—at a safe, social distance of course.

Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail, Gloucestershire

The Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail was founded in 1986 by Martin Orrom, then Forestry and Environment Officer for Forestry Commission, Jeremy Rees, the founding director of the Arnolfini gallery in Bristol, and Rupert Martin, Curator at the Arnolfini. Initially commissioning artworks inspired by the land-art movement—which saw outdoor artworks and the nature that surround them as inextricably linked—some of the first artists to contribute work to the park included the renowned creators David Nash, Magdalena Jetelova, Ian Hamilton Finlay, and Cornelia Parker. Since then, the sculpture trail has continually commissioned new and exciting works—both temporary and permanent—to scatter amidst the stunning surroundings of the Forest of Dean, reflecting current movements in sculpture while also staying true to the vision of its founders. There are currently 17 artworks to see in the trail, ranging from oversized deers made of manipulated tree branches and sticks by Sophie Ryder, to a captivating stained glass window titled “Cathedral” by Kevin Atherton. Head over to take a look yourself, but make sure to check up on the trail’s coronavirus restrictions before you do!


Henry Moore Studios and Gardens, Hertfordshire

Henry Moore famously believed that “there is no better background to sculpture than the sky”. At Henry Moore Studios and Gardens that is exactly how visitors can experience the renowned sculptor's work. Set in the beautiful Hertfordshire countryside, Moore’s home, studios and grounds showcase some of the artists most iconic work. Having reopened on Saturday 4 July, visitors can now discover more than 20 sculptures nestled throughout the picturesque gardens. Refreshments are also available from the on-site café these include picnic lunches which can be ordered in advance and eaten in the gardens. In response to COVID-19, a variety of new measures have been implemented to ensure effective social distancing. These include the requirement of a pre-booked ticket which can be purchased in advance online.


Image credit: Henry Moore Studios and Gardens via Facebook

Broomhill Sculpture Gardens, Devon

Situated just outside Barnstaple in a charming North Devon valley, Broomhill Sculpture Gardens is one of the largest permanent collections of contemporary sculpture in the south west of England. Boasting both a gallery space and luscious green, floral garden to present their enviable collection of sculptures, including work by the renowned Carol Peace, it is an idyllic destination to enjoy art in a pastoral setting. Fun fact, the venue is also home to the National Sculpture Prize (NSP) – an annual award offering an exciting challenge for new and emerging UK based sculptors! If you fancy a visit, you can book a 2 hour time slot online on the garden’s website. Or, if you want to make a weekend out of it, why not book to stay in the connected hotel situated in a late Victorian period property?


New Art Centre, Wiltshire

The New Art Centre started life as a gallery on Sloane Street in London, but relocated to Wiltshire in 1994. It’s new home situated in a nineteenth-century house with surrounding parkland meant that the gallery could expand its horizons and present artwork in new and innovative locations outside of traditional white walled exhibition spaces. Sculptures in the New Art Centre’s sculpture park can be found looking out onto vast expanses of luscious green fields and nestled between trees with leaves and flowers scattered haphazardly around them. The centre also boasts a range of galleries in a variety of outhouses across the park, including the stable gallery which is currently showing a selection of work by the iconic Barbara Hepworth (running until 28th August 2020.) Head on over to learn more about the revered British sculptor (booking is essential), and if she peaks your interest, you may want to consider taking a look at our next sculpture park suggestion below...


Image credit: New Art Centre via their website

Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden, Cornwall

Reopening on 27th July, the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden in St Ives is situated in the former Trewyn Studios, where the iconic British sculptor Barbara Hepworth lived and worked from 1949 until her death in 1975. Placed in the care of the Tate Gallery in 1980, the artists home, studio, and collection have become the museum and sculpture park that many people know and love today, exhibiting Hepworth’s work in the same way it was created: “in open air and space.” Head over to the Tate website to book your combined ticket to the museum as well as Tate St Ives for a full day of cultured activities by the seaside, or brush up on your Babara Hepworth knowledge in preparation for the reopening by reading some of their insightful articles about her life and work.

Grizedale Sculpture Trail, Cumbria

Grizedale Forest near Coniston Water in the Lake District was the UK’s first forest dedicated to showcasing sculpture in a natural environment. With a wide variety of artworks placed across the 10 square miles of natural woodland, it’s the perfect place to visit for those who want to exercise and see art at the same time. Grab a map from the visitor information centre and head off on a refreshing forest walk—or cycle if you have a bike to hand—and hunt for sculptures by artists spanning the long history of art at Grizedale Forest, including Richard Harris, Alannah Robins, Kerry Morrison, and Linda Watson to name a few. Also, keep an eye on their website for the latest news of performances and other outdoor activities they are running, which may start popping up again in the Autumn as further post-corona restrictions start being lifted.


Image credit: Grizedale Sculpture Trail via Facebook

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