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REVIEW: Open Air Exhibition, Hidcote Gardens

Wellesbourne Airfield
Wellesbourne Airfield

The wonderful gardens at Hidcote Manor, a National Trust property near Chipping Campden, have been given a sprinkling of extra delight with their Open Air sculpture exhibition, unveiled last weekend.

Walking around the gardens, spotting the eclectic works from the 15 different artists on display, is a thoroughly rewarding and edifying experience. The exhibition, now in its fifth year, featured around 60 pieces in different mediums and styles, from classical stone forms and bronzes, to cutting-edge stainless steel plant forms and contemporary pieces.

Although you can grab a map and follow a trail, it’s more fun to stroll around and spot pieces — nestled in rockeries, flowerbeds, hovering above ponds (in the case of the giant metal dragonfly perfectly positioned over the lily pond) or atop stone plinths. Each discovered artwork comes with a small thrill of joy at their discovery, cleverness and how wonderful they looked in the exquisite surroundings.

I strolled around with Anna Pike, manager at Chipping Campden’s Guild gallery (and our assorted children, who happily romped around this outdoor gallery), our favourites included the bronze owls by Marie Shepherd, Katie Green’s vibrant mosaic flowers and feathers, the giant woodlouse and dragonflies from David Freedman and Christine Baxter’s reclining nudes. The children voted Darren Greenhow’s Pike on a Trike the funniest, and their favourite.

We went at sunset and the golden glow lent the whole experience a kind of beauty and serenity that could only be achieved in such a perfect English garden. Luckily, we bumped into artist Mike Bigland, who is based in Birmingham, he happily chatted to us about his metallic flowers on display.

We were particularly captivated by his alliums — which nestled inconspicuously among other flowers, until one was arrested by their metallic sheen and machine-like perfection. Mike told us that the flowers are particularly fine receptors for rain, snow and cobwebs. And we were all the more engrossed when we found out their affordable price tag!

Apparently the items of sculpture are for sale. Is it too early to say ‘Christmas shopping’?

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