Get inspired in the Surrey Hills

22nd September 2016

8934340This summer you may have noticed some rather striking looking sculptures popping up along the Greensand Way. These distinct pieces of art are part of the Inspiring Views project delivered by Surrey Hills Arts. Funded through the Mittal Foundation, this project has worked with landowners to open up hidden views along the Greensand Way, improve access and commission artists to interpret the views through art, poetry and sound.

Director of Watts Gallery and Chairman of Surrey Hills Arts, Perdita Hunt comments; ‘The opportunity to bring together art and landscape is powerful and potent. I hope the engagement of artists to create these commissions for all of us to enjoy in five of the most stunning viewpoints in Surrey will give many hours of pleasure and discussion. We are very grateful to the Mittal Foundation for making this possible.’

xylem-by-walter-baileyresizeFive sculptors and designers were commissioned to create sculptural benches at viewpoints along the Greensand Way at Gibbet Hill, Reynards Hill, Holmbury Hill, Winterfold and Hascombe Hill.

At Gibbet Hill sculptor Walter Bailey created ‘Xylem’ a bench carved out of oak which has taken inspiration from Walter’s microscopic studies of charcoal. Historically charcoal has great relevance to the Greensand Way as this material has supported individuals and industries enabling the shaping of copper, bronze, glass and iron through the centuries.

Walter comments; “It has been a joy to return to explore and be inspired once again by the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. I was fascinated to discover that the tranquil Surrey Hills landscape harboured such a hive of industries, all reliant on the production of charcoal over many centuries.”


A striking piece sitting on top of Reynards Hill is ‘Contour’, made up of multiple layers of recycled material to achieve a wave like form. Sculptor Russell Jakubowski took his inspiration from the layers of sedimentation, contours of the land and the visible forms and cycles of nature.

converse-by-matthewburtresizeUpon visiting Holmbury Hill, furniture maker Matthew Burt found the view  ‘a heart stopping, glad to be alive moment. It demands savouring, mulling over, contemplating and discussion. You are invited to do so from the sociable conversation bench that now accompanies that view.” ‘Converse’ is a series of beautifully crafted benches in an arrangement that allows for social conversation and picnics as well as facing out to the beautiful, lesser trodden spot at Holmbury Hill. This location is fully accessible and the bench arrangement is designed to allow for wheelchair access.

perspectives-by-giles-millerThe proposals were not only for benches, at Winterfold, Giles Miller created ‘Perspectives’, a shelter nestled within the woods with a clear view towards the South Downs offering a space for focused contemplation. The Giles Miller team created a surface of wooden shingles engraved with words and messages from local people and visitors which encapsulate their thoughts and feelings of the area.
Giles comments “In creating such a progressive piece of sculptural architecture and placing it overlooking the beautiful vista at Winterfold, I have fulfilled a dream in marrying a sculptural piece of work within a beautiful context that has a place so close to my heart.”

grains-by-tom-nicholson-smithLocal sculptor Tom Nicholson Smith was inspired by greensand itself, looking at the microscopic particles noting their shapes and wide range of tones.  In ‘Grains’, he has created a grouped arrangement of carved oak forms that represent grains of sand up on the hill at Hascombe. He notes “A view of Southern England without evidence of human structures is rare but with this site I found one. I hope I have done it justice, and retained the natural feeling to this secret place.’  Like the other view points, this sits away from the much trodden view from the hill fort.

The Inspiring Views project not only produced artworks but also poetry and sound pieces. Poet John Wedgwood Clarke came to stay close to the locations spending his time walking, researching and talking to people at the sites.  He captured their unique identities through words creating poems for each of the five inspiring views.

John comments:  “It’s been a pleasure to discover and explore a landscape that has so powerfully shaped, and been shaped by, human activity. The Surrey Hills are as full of voices as they are trees. Through this poem sequence, I’ve tried to recreate something of the atmosphere of each place, both in their familiarity and their haunting strangeness.”

Click here to read the poems John created

Established musician, sound artist and composer Graham Dowdall spent time at each location taking field recordings and responding to the sites through sound.  He has aimed to create ‘sound pictures for each hill to represent and to reflect each landscape sonically. Each site has its own unique sound world and special atmosphere.’

Click here to listen to Graham’s sound pieces

Local people of all ages and abilities have created artworks, poetry and sound alongside these artists in response to these viewpoints. School children walked the footpaths leading to the views and captured words along the way which they formed into poetry.  Young people gathered field recordings and manipulated these back at the youth centre. Local artists, children and young people all created their own sculptures inspired by the Contour piece and giant charcoal drawings were created looking at microscopic studies of charcoal.  Through local people engaging with the artists and locations, it will give even more meaning when they go and visit the newly installed artworks.

Why not get out this autumn and see these beautiful benches. You can even go on the ‘Inspiring Views’ walk to take in a few, created by iFootpath,

Surrey Hills Arts is a partnership between Surrey Arts, Surrey County Council and the Surrey Hills. It aims to engage and inspire people with the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and its unique natural, cultural and industrial heritage through the arts.

For more information on Surrey Hills Arts and the Inspiring Views project visit or contact Programme Manager Ali Clarke