The wilded Capability Brown gardens at Devon Sculpture Park are extraordinary. Capability Brown was commissioned over 250 years ago to design one of his only seascapes and probably his most intimate garden. Today it is one of the last remaining Capability Brown gardens in the South West.
Painstakingly restored, the gardens boast historic water gardens, rows of signature Capability Brown Cedar trees, a lake carved into Haldon Hill and an impressive series of connected beds that keep going twelve months of the year thanks to the unique design, aspect and micro-climate. The gardens are the first truly rewilded historic gardens showcasing natural climate solutions.
There are specific Autumn and Winter gardens, wild gardens, Romanesque courtyard and terrace wrap-around gardens plus a Tuscan style terraced kitchen garden.
We believe we have developed a nationally important collection of trees while fusing UK West country plants with Mediterranean species. We put nature first. Birds, bees, butterfly, moths and waterfowl abound. The gardens form part of the UK’s leading smaller scale rewilding project.
A standard definition for art is ‘art is emotion’. It should therefore be the case that art can and perhaps should affect our emotional wellbeing. Hopefully positively.
At Devon Sculpture Park we want to foster this link. We have double the motivation: firstly evidence supports that people de-stress in museums and galleries but also there is a sizeable movement around improving our wellbeing through ‘time in nature’. As a leading UK Rewilding Project we specialise in the wellbeing of land and wildlife. The reserve is mesmerising.
We are all about ‘art in nature’. Mamhead Park (South) was designed for it. The evidence is everywhere – with endless, mesmerising sea views framed so magically by Capability Brown, connected via a tunnel from the ice house all the way to the sea.
The Robert Adams Orangery has a dome that makes you giddy when you stare up at it. The Lake House reflects calmy off the Capability Brown lake. Rowing boats float among fish and birdlife.
Dozens of benches and chairs have been painstakingly positioned to promote sitting and relaxing; taking in the ‘art in nature’ while detoxing. After all, we have to live up to the inspiring engraving on one of our ancient pillars: ‘Et in Arcadia ego’ which translates to ‘I am in paradise’.
Companies, charities and healthcare organisations can bring team members here for a day retreat.
The inaugural outdoor exhibition in the Capability Brown gardens is ‘ART WILDED’ by resident artist Philip Letts.
The exhibition is a series of contemporary sculpture installations blending conceptual and abstract themes that examine the clash between modern society, technology, environment and nature. The overarching theme is ‘Man versus nature’.
Resident artist, Philip Letts, has been shown in leading art fairs across the world and has had a number of solo exhibitions in New York, London and Paris. He is best known for his relentless push into new media from abstract photography to mixed media, digital art, sculpture, installation and performance art. He focuses on urban culture and its relentless pressure on community and the environment.
Philip helps us challenge our place in the continuum of nature. Nature and urbanization are too often at odds leading to the degradation of the environment. It is more important than ever to work together to deal with climate change and the destruction of our land, wildlife and biodiversity.
‘Art Wilded’ is the first annual outdoor exhibition in the Capability Brown gardens at Devon Sculpture Park.
Mamhead Park (South), where Devon Sculpture Park is located, is steeped in history. There are a number of historic buildings.
The Robert Adam Orangery
The Grade II listed Orangery started as a cascade house over 500 years ago. An early owner, Thomas Ball (1671 – 1749), planted many exotic trees brought back from his continental travels. A number are still standing. In the 1770’s Robert Adam was commissioned by the Earls of Lisburne to redo the cascade house with his classic Romanesque temple and cupola.
Robert Adam introduced the now famous Lancelot Capability Brown to redesign the gardens and frame the extraordinary views over the sea and Exe estuary. The Orangery is one of the last historic orangeries that is still lived in. It houses some of the Letts family’s private art collection.
The Ice House
The Ice House has a fascinating history dating back hundreds of years. It sits around 5 metres below ground with only its ancient roof visible above the ground.
It has tunnels running for miles East and West. One leads all the way to the sea at Starcross and another heads up the hill to the Obelisk at Mamhead Woods. They may even have been smugglers tunnels!
Grade II listed St Thomas the Apostle Church is over 800 years old but the current structure is mostly a 15th Century building. It still holds a monthly church service and is available for weddings.
St Thomas’ has a small but active congregation. The beautifully maintained garden and graveyard, with historic yew, are open to the public.
Devon Sculpture Park is surrounded by parkland and a recently established Wilding Project. Book a Wilding Tour – CLICK HERE.
Nearly 100 acres have been rewilded letting the land and nature return to their ancient, organic roots. Ploughing and fertiliser destroy the soil and damage our fragile environment – we do neither.
We nurture and support wildlife to manage the land with us. Ponies, Roe deer and small rare breed sheep top grass and keep invasive weed back. Alpacas lift lower canopy, protect new born lambs and eat thistle. Pigs manage scrub.
An extraordinary array of birds, bees and butterfly share our trees and hedgerow with field mice, bugs, hedge hogs and snakes.
Our lakes support a rich variety of fish, newt and dragonfly with duck and heron frequent visitors.
We believe the combination of sculpture park and rewilding project is unique. The wildlife and nature are a part of the overall installation, of our living art. Environmental, sustainable art is the future. Environmental issues are vital for artists to attack.
Devon Sculpture Park is a new kind of outdoor art centre. We are not just one of the UK’s larger sculpture parks by acreage, we have the ambition to be a broader centre for the arts.
We were established by resident artist, Philip Letts, to support sculpture, visual arts both indoor and outdoor plus design, film, theatre, books, music, cooking and innovation.
At the bottom of the Capability Brown gardens is a sizable natural amphitheatre where we plan to host theatre, music and performance art – overlooking the sea.
We are a platform for artists to show how uniquely they can challenge our thinking, how effectively they enable us to see things differently. If you would like to talk to us about putting on an event just email firstname.lastname@example.org. We would love to hear from you.