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Creative Landscapes

Surrey Hills Arts recently coordinated a pilot project that saw an Artist-in-Residence interpret the landscape at Gatton Park and engage with local people, particularly the isolated or those with mental health issues.

Susan Ryland spent four months exploring the Gatton Park landscape with an emphasis on ‘taking the air’.  Susan immersed herself in the site, particularly exploring the areas around the lake appreciating its microclimate and taking readings of the varying breezes. She wanted to create work that would focus visitors on this sensory experience rather than just experiencing it visually.

As part of the process, Susan led creative health walks around the lake with young people and adults with mental health issues, school children and older people. She shared ideas about her project as they walked through the Japanese gardens, around the lake and back through the rockery.  They shared words with Susan as well as making sculptural pieces linking to the themes.

‘The Creative Health Walks proved to be a rich source of inspiration – enabling me to observe and reiterate the elements of Gatton Park that seemed most important to me. The dialogue I had with the Creative Health Walk participants evolved into the dialogue I created between the brass plaque phrases and their particular locations in the landscape in The Beaufort Way. The regularity of the walks enabled me to see the subtle changes in the landscape from one week to the next and grew into a therapeutic ritual for me that continued right to the end of the project.’  Susan Ryland.

Susan also led creative walks and workshops with the Royal Alexandra and Albert School pupils. They each created a ‘flutterby’ – a poetic paper form that flutters in the breeze which, when hidden in the landscape, can be used as a secret means of communication. They wrote their secrets on these and hid them in the clay pipes that are in the wall beneath the footbridge.  One pupil summed up her experience:

‘The secret place feels mysterious and mystical underneath an old but pleasant bridge. The walls are very ornate and make you feel special.  It’s a nice and relaxing place to draw or write or just think about your day.  If I could, I would go back there every day and just reflect on the day and think about what I’m excited to do. I’m really glad I got to see that place because it has to be one of the best places I have ever been even though it’s not important to the public.  I am so happy that I got to see it.’

Susan’s residency resulted in The Beaufort Way, a new walk around the Gatton landscape with boundary markers. The Beaufort Way explores the relationship between meteorological ‘wind force’ – from light breeze to hurricane. On each boundary marker are snippets from the Beaufort scale from windforce 0 – 12 such as Crested Wavelets or Inconvenience Felt While Walking.  They have been placed in a significant location; a viewpoint, a hidden feature or an overlooked aspect of Capability Brown’s design.  Susan has created a blog of the project www.takingtheair.wordpress.com as well as creating a map that can be downloaded from the site.


The park is open on the first Sunday of each month so why not have a visit and ‘take the air’!