Culture Chat with Surrey Hills Arts Inspiring Views Project

Surrey Hills Arts in partnership with Surrey Arts, works to delivers a programme of arts events, installations, and experiences in the Surrey Hills. It aims to engage and inspire people with the Surrey Hills National Landscape and its unique natural, cultural and industrial heritage through the arts.

This month's Culture Chat takes us out into the landscape to meet Ali Clarke, Programme Manager for Surrey Hills Arts. Ali gives an insight into the Inspiring Views project as we explore three of its sculptural seats.

Unique artworks

Ali Clarke has worked in Surrey since 2000, initiating and delivering projects specific to the landscape. Often responding to the history or geology of a site, Ali works closely with artists and landowners in developing projects, residencies, and events across the art forms.

Ali tells me, 'Inspiring Views is a project that restores hidden viewpoints across the Surrey Hills National Landscape, improving access and celebrating these views through innovative, sculptural seating. There are currently 9nine 'Inspiring Views' artworks in the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty for walkers, cyclists, and explorers to discover as they venture through woodland, along hilltops and heathlands.'

The most recent pieces to be added are The Optohedron, Radius and Coccolith.

The Optohedron

The Optohedron, by Will Nash on the North Downs Way, near Newlands Corner.

Following the circular walk from Silent Pool car park, I'm a little out of breath as we near Newlands Corner; here, I spot the Optohedron in a clearing and understand fully why this programme is called Inspiring Views. The sculpture is a few steps off the footpath, nestled between trees with a tapestry of fields in the background, reflecting how high we have walked.

Will's artwork beckons you to admire the curved, rusted surface packed with hazel logs. Kaleidoscopes are concealed within the timber; each one is orientated to view a different element of the surrounding nature.

As well as being a comfortable seat, the piece also includes a conservation element, which runs throughout the Inspiring Views programme. The Optohedron won first place for Public Art in the Guildford Design Awards, and if you don't fancy the uphill walk to view this award-winning piece, don't worry; you can access the site from Newlands Corner, a five-minute walk away, where there is a car park and a café.


Radius, by James Tunnard, Denbies Hillside, Dorking, North Downs Way

Not only does the Inspiring Views project celebrate art and landscape, but by embracing the outside, we can benefit from the positive effects on our health and well-being that can inspire creativity.

'Radius' artist James Tunnard collaborated with Mole Valley Poets and engraved their poems alongside inscriptions from members of the public into Radius. This seat sits above the beautiful vineyard at Denbies and is made from locally sourced oak. A sense of movement flows through its design, reflecting the surrounding hills and valleys.

As part of the project, Ali says 'a series of walks around has been created working with the Surrey Hills Society that takes visitors through the vineyard, to nearby attractions including the pretty market town of Dorking. They include an accessible route suitable for wheelchair users and families. A podcast features one of these walks and interviews with people involved with the project.'


Coccolith, by Instar; Titsey Estate, Tatsfield

The latest artwork to be added to the Inspiring Views collection was unveiled towards the end of 2022.

Inside the circular structure of Coccolith, made by incorporating chalk, ironstone, and flint, we sit on stone seats inscribed with the words 'built upon time and tide'. A reminder that this land was once ocean. An expanse of sky opens above us, and as the artists' hoped, I contemplate the day ahead, take in the view and admire the stonework and planting that is all part of the Coccolith design.

Ali tells me the 'Surrey County Council Growth Team from Surrey Choices helped to dig foundations. This group of adults with learning disabilities are also planting a new hedgerow along the path for us as part of the project'

Find out more

Find out more about the Inspiring Views programme, including links to walks, films and podcasts, by visiting the web site for Surrey Hill Arts.

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