Yorkshire Sculpture Park has been on my ‘to visit list’ for quite some time. A number of my friends, having children of different ages had recommended the park. This weekend we enjoyed our first visit to this vast park. The Yorkshire Sculpture Park is part of the Bretton Estate and comprises 500 acres of land. Approximately 80 sculptures are dotted across this beautiful landscape at any one time. The sculptures themselves are a mixture of gifts and items received on loan from various artists and for this reason, the exhibitions can change from time to time. I would recommend you pick up a map from the visitor’s centre or alternatively, download one from the Yorkshire Sculpture Park website.
Yorkshire Sculpture Park
“Celebrating 40 years of art without walls”
I wouldn’t consider myself a fan of art. I have been to very few art galleries as an adult. Perhaps because I’m not an ‘arty’ person, I feel uncomfortable walking around a gallery looking at art. The notion of a visit to an art gallery does little to excite me! However, Yorkshire Sculpture Park is something much different.
I had no idea what to expect when visiting the park – would it be full of ‘arty’ people laughing at my ignorance of all things art? Would the sculptures themselves be worth viewing? I was pleasantly surprised to see a whole variety of people visiting the park. From families to art lovers, and ramblers taking in the beauty of the location. To my amazement, I loved all the sculptures! Indeed, we did feel rather like art critics!
By taking these stunning sculptures and placing them across a stunning landscape, the pieces become more beautiful, and seemingly more accessible. The above quotation “Celebrating 40 years of art without walls” appears on the website of the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. This quotation really resonated with me. And led me to think that perhaps my ‘art phobia’ and reluctance to embrace art had stemmed from my experiences in art galleries. In confined spaces where I felt ashamed of my lack of education in the arts. Where I felt I stood out and ultimately felt stupid. The Yorkshire Sculpture Park has truly awakened something in me, a love and admiration of artistic creation and now, I want more!
Visiting Yorkshire Sculpture Park
Yorkshire Sculpture Park is open every day with the exception of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. The park opens from 10am and the gates close at 6pm daily. I was surprised to learn that entry to the park is free. There is a charge for the carpark, the cost of which contributes to the maintenance of the park. We paid £11.00 for all day parking. Parking does not need to be paid upon arrival, you can simply pay online up to 7 days following your visit.
Visitors to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park can take a look inside the YSP centre. This state of the art building houses an indoor gallery, a shop, cafe and toilet facilities. A short walk away you can find the learning centre. These locations are a great place to stop for a coffee and rest your legs after a walk around the park.
If you would like to explore Yorkshire Sculpture Park to its full extent, I would recommend a full day’s visit. We spent approximately 5 hours at the park and saw less than half of the sculptures. There is a lot of walking involved – this is great for getting some exercise, but those with limited mobility should consider this prior to visiting the park.
I had told my 5-year-old, Aurelia, that art was all about our own interpretations. So I encouraged her to consider what some of the sculptures meant to her. She gave me some really interesting but carefully considered answers.
Aurelia dubbed this sculpture ‘the Wizard’. She said that his pointy hat reminded her of Gandalf the Grey! (I have taught her well!)
We all thought this sculpture was a representation of Buddha. Aurelia also thought the sculpture made reference to Pokémon (note the red and white ‘badge’ on his stomach!)
I really loved this activity. We have never done anything like this before and it allowed us to explore some really interesting ideas. It also gave us something great to talk about as we walked among the sculptures!
When I saw a rabbit in the naked female form I did hold my breath for a moment and wonder what the sculpture would be like as I moved closer. I was dreading the barrage of questions from Aurelia! But as we approached the rabbit sculpture, it wasn’t rude at all! Aurelia simply asked, “where is the brain?”
Aurelia was able to wander around the male rabbit. He was covered in amazing detail – such as the hand we found!
Our Favourite Sculptures
One of our favourite sculptures from Yorkshire Sculpture Park was the exhibition entitled: ‘Trees: From Alternative Landscape Components’. The use of different household pieces in this exhibition was to our amazement!
The Night and Day (a double-sided) sculpture was really unique. It took us a while to figure out what it represented (we only realised when we walked around it to find the opposite side) but we loved coming up with a whole range of ideas as to what it was!
The Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads was extremely popular with all visitors. The 12 bronze heads represent the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac. Aurelia learnt that she was born in the year of the snake (she wanted the dragon apparently!).
There are plenty of spaces for children to run around and play as well as nooks and crannies to explore. Aurelia really enjoyed exploring the ‘hidden forest’.
We love the great outdoors! The Yorkshire Sculpture Park was the perfect place for Aurelia to enjoy one of her favourite pastimes – tree climbing. As well as playing in the autumn leaves.
Bretton Hall still stands within the grounds. And although not accessible to the public, it remains a prominent feature in the park.
A lake runs through Yorkshire Sculpture Park with a bridge to cross to the other side. We saw a huge variety of birds on the lake including swans.
Yorkshire Sculpture Park is a family day out suitable for those of all ages. Many of the sculptures are roped off to protect them. It was a shame to see children climbing on some of the exhibits (signs throughout the park politely ask visitors not to climb on these pieces of art). There are some sculptures that the children can move through and interact with.
Not only are the sculptures beautiful, but the grounds themselves are also sublime. Within every few feet, there is something different to look at. The sculptures will leave you pondering as to their meaning and perhaps discuss things you have never discussed before with the children. Our day at the park certainly gave us much to discuss on the way home and of course, allowed Aurelia to ask a million and one questions!