My Course Diary

The two day Peripheral Vision Course ‘Get In Shape’ was a stimulating combination of outdoor walking and sculpture with the Fallowfield Healthy Living Group. Usually the group meet every week for a walk somewhere in the Manchester area and are a mixture of ages and a very lively, jolly lot. Their access to cultural venues has been limited so two trips were planned – one to Yorkshire Sculpture Park and another to the Irwell Valley Sculpture Trail.

5TH December

The day of the first trip arrived and so did the snow! However an intrepid group of 12 of us braved the weather and headed off by minibus to the wilds of Yorkshire. Actually when we got there we found we had left all the bad weather behind and were greeted by blue skies. First stop was obviously the café and while quantities of coffee, carrot cake, and delicious muffins were being consumed the paperwork was tackled. Suitably refreshed we headed outside to see the work of Barcelonan born Jaume Plensa, whose stunning sculptures completely captivated everyone. The write up for the exhibition stated-

Plensa’s sculpture gives physical form to the intangible, using the body as a way of exploring what it means to be human and engaging with universal themes: love, memory, language and despair. Other works need the presence of a human body to make them complete, such as Song of Songs. These glass cabins, immersed in coloured light, are only large enough for one visitor to enter and are spaces for solitary contemplation

Two huge wire heads gaze silently at each other across a space.

The sculptures and the landscapes were enhanced each  by the other and could by enjoyed on different levels eliciting a lot of discussion, some excellent photographs and a couple of videos.

Inside we walked along the 50m curtain of poetry made or suspended steel letters and then explored the various installations of illuminated figures, exquisite alabaster heads and finally a room with an array of gongs engraved with poetry  which we were able to strike, filling the gallery with sound. Hard to top really!

Next we looked at Rachael Goodyear’s exhibition. This was very different in both content and scale. The general response seemed to be that it was interesting but also a bit strange and disturbing.

We carried on walking through the park sighting various sculptures along the way in clearings and nestled amongst trees including some Henry Moors and arrived at another cafe.

There was just time after lunch to have a look at an excellent and moving installation by a group of young offenders before heading back home. The day was quite long and tiring for some but very successful as an introduction to sculpture.

12th December

Day 2 was a trip to the Irwell Valley Sculpture Trail. Winding its way from Salford Quays to Bacup the Irwell Valley Sculpture Trail is the largest sculpture trail in the UK and features over 70 artworks by local and internationally renowned artists forming a fascinating backdrop to the local landscape.

Unfortunately we were quite depleted in numbers as several of the group had other commitments but undaunted we set off to Burrs County Park, a much shorter journey this time.


Stone Cycle is a sculpture made from stone, copper and brass, and is created using large stones recycled from a dismantled bridge to which the original mason’s marks have been added to. The piece reflects on the passing of time, people and industry of the area.

All the sculptures on the trail are artists’ response to the specific site and often reflect on the way in which the area has been previously used, it’s changing face and the people who have inhabited it and invite you to contemplate on the nature of human life and our link to the land on which we live, depend upon and change.

From the first sculpture cluster we followed the trail along the bank of the river past gushing water falls and amazing green moss-covered trees providing great photo opportunities! The trail grew increasingly muddy and treacherous and after slithering and sliding our way for some time it simply turned into an impassable lake. We were left with no choice but to abandon the trail, go back and take the road which we hoped would lead us to Summerseat and the Garden Centre where coffee and the minibus awaited us. Eventually we discovered from some friendly locals we were somewhat off track and were directed to a bus stop. A short ride led us to the track towards our goal. So we finished the day in a café decked with decorations and festive lights.

The general consensus was that sculptures can add interest and excitement to a good walk and the venues were fantastic places to visit.

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