Wiltshire magazine visits Urchfont Manor in Devizes, Wiltshire

PUBLISHED: 15:41 20 January 2010 | UPDATED: 16:09 20 February 2013

Woven willow sphere by Susan Early

Woven willow sphere by Susan Early

Urchfont Manor was one of the first of the post-war government's special art projects, still going strong when many others have failed and this year is staging a garden sculpture exhibition to help with the restoration of its gardens.

Wiltshire magazine visits Urchfont Manor in Devizes, Wiltshire

Situated on the edge of Urchfont village near Devizes, Urchfont Manor is one of the county's finest 18th-century manor houses. During the Second World War this splendid establishment was acquired by the County Council and shortly afterwards as part of a countrywide idealistic movement to create learning opportunities for all, it became a residential college for adult education. Today a relatively small number of these colleges survive. Urchfont is one that continues to thrive and currently it offers an enormous range of day and residential courses in a wide variety of subjects, ranging from archaeology to mosaics, tapestry weaving to book binding, and music making to yoga. For the visitor to the college, the garden is one of its main attractions. Today the manor is surrounded by a walled kitchen garden, long borders, croquet lawns, an old orchard, and extensive parkland with mature trees. Alas, the budget for the garden is insufficient to fund the level of gardening staff that would be required to maintain all of these elements properly. Fortunately, in recent years the work of the college's part-time gardener has been supplemented by help from volunteers drawn from the Wiltshire Gardens Trust and more recently by a small group of volunteer gardeners, the Friends of Urchfont Garden.

In 2007 the college celebrated its 60th anniversary and to mark the occasion the Friends held their first exhibition of contemporary sculpture in the gardens. Such was the success of this venture that the Friends raised sufficient funds to attract grant to rebuild the old greenhouse in the kitchen garden. This new feature allows the Friends to raise enough cuttings and seeds to stock the garden and have plants left over for sale to top up funds for future garden work. Encouraged by the success of the 2007 exhibition, another such event will be taking place from 5-20 September when the garden and the new greenhouse will showcase the work of some 25 talented artists, approximately half of whom are drawn from across Wiltshire. Sculptures in glass, ceramic, steel, bronze and stone, as well as furniture in wood, will set off every corner of this magical place. This year's exhibition has as its theme 'Nature into Art - Looking Again' and is designed to encourage visitors to look closely both at the art on view and at and the ever-changing context of the garden. All work in the exhibition is for sale and a shop selling smaller work by exhibition artists means there is something for a wide range of tastes and purses! Entry is free and during the exhibition the garden is open every day from 11am until 6pm. "This event is sure to attract keen gardeners and art lovers alike," said Trish Rowell, Urchfont's garden designer and chair of the organising Friends of Urchfont Garden.

For more information visit the college website http://www.urchfontmanor.co.uk or e-mail Lesley.andrews@virgin.net.


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