Lowther Castle Art Installation

Garden writer Susie White writes about her visit to Lowther Castle to watch the setting up of an art installation on the castle lawns.

Last years’ charity fundraising event at Lowther Castle near Penrith saw an installation of 10,000 ceramic daffodils ‘planted’ against the romantic backdrop of the ruined castle. It was such a success that the Lowther Castle and Gardens Trust have commissioned a new project from County Durham based artist, Steve Messam. It’s only up for a short time so make sure you get to see the amazing sight of 500 gold flags, a sensual and visual experience in front of the castle between 19th of April to 6th of May.

When I arrived the vast lawns that stretch away to the south were studded with bare aluminium poles. Volunteers were arriving and starting to help set up the artwork. I asked one volunteer how she had found out about it and this was through a Facebook group. She was one of 60 people, many from Bridge Creative based in Bishop Aukland, who were divided into teams for different areas of the lawns. Their job, to pass a white rope through one end of a flag, fasten it with a halyard hitch, and then attach the other end of the flag before moving on to the next.

With 500 flags it was obviously going to take some time so I walked round the gardens to see the latest developments in this ongoing project. I found this particularly fascinating because I saw the garden grounds when they were still overgrown, the stonework, huts and historic features half hidden in the undergrowth.

Even since I was here last summer, newly laid woodchip paths were soft underfoot and the Rock Garden had been transformed, its water features restored and the borders waiting for planting; 60,000 plants will soon be planted throughout the gardens.

(pictured above: Rose Garden tea house)

The rose garden at Lowther Castle was designed by Dan Pearson and part of his masterplan for the gardens. And alongside the rose garden an avenue of amelanchiers was in full flower around a wooden teahouse. Three deer bounded across the path near the Lost Castle, a huge adventure playground, a quiet moment before visiting children arrived. I followed the path for the view over the escarpment to the Lake District fells and watched Canada geese flying along the river.

There’s plenty of wildlife in these woodlands. I saw a hare, heard blackbird, chiffchaff, nuthatch and blackcap, and a raven croaking up in the trees. They were primroses and violets and daffodils. And then rounding a turn in the path there was suddenly the sight of hundreds of fluttering gold banners. The dazzling colour was striking against the grey stone of the castle ruins.

Wandering through this field of flags in an experience. Steve Messam (pictured above) tested a number of fabrics because he wanted to get the right sound and one that was not too harsh. He explained that he had a flagpole outside his house in Teesdale where he could test them; the resulting choice, a gold dyed textile fabric that makes a soothing gentle sound. OR is the name of heraldic gold and the Lowther crest is based round the colour gold. I pointed to Steve’s orange laces in his trainers. “Oh, yes, I’m on brand“, he laughed.

Each flag measures up to 2.5m long and 1.5 m high and the aluminium poles stand at a height of between 3 m and 5 m. This variation in height adds to the dynamic affect, the subtle variation in their colouring creating added texture.

This is an enormous installation on a scale rarely seen and stunning against the backdrop of the castle. The event will benefit three charities: James’ Place, Restore and the Lowther Church Restoration Fund.

Editors Note: Susie’s social media can be found at; www.susie-white.co.uk
Tweeting as @cottagegardener

All images ©Susie White