This week, I’ve been thinking a lot about how to continue to nurture my love of the outdoors now that the long-threatened ‘Big Winter Chill’ seems to almost be upon us. You all know that there’s nothing I love more than being amongst the natural world, whether it’s on a trail run or wandering through a nature reserve. I’ll admit, my motivation to leave my house usually correlates quite well with the temperature, meaning during these long winter months, my motivation is, just like the weather, in the region of “minus one gazillion Celsius.” I know I’m not alone in experiencing this dreaded slump in activity and energy levels and that many of you can relate. Well, today, I wanted to talk about not having to sacrifice my connection with nature even when the weather is doing its’ best to make that happen!
I talked about how my partner and I recently visited the Sculpture by the Lakes park – a stunning escape for art-lovers set across acres of beautiful Dorset countryside. I talked about how inspiring Simon’s work was and how he and his wife had teamed up to create something really special for those of us on the South Coast (anyone is welcome to visit of course but like many other residents of Dorset, I’m eager to claim this gem as ours). There was so much just about Simon’s work in that post that I didn’t get to talk about how the duo have crafted something beyond just an art installation within the park – they’ve also created a nature retreat.
You might remember that I gushed about how beautiful the park was and just how tranquil it was. Birdsong and the gently gushing streams of water was the soundtrack for the day. Sounds heavenly, right?
As well as that, I can’t again emphasise enough how gorgeous the lakes and the countryside surrounding us was. Simon and Monique collaborate to create such a beautiful environment. Whilst he designs his sculptures, she will plan the plants that will go around his creations; taking care to enhance rather than distract from his work.
Monique’s gardening talents are illustrated in the pruning, in the flowers and also in the gardens. The end result is a park that you can visit just for the natural beauty and just for the rejuvenation that only comes following a few hours worth of a retreat into nature.
Now, you might be thinking: “This all looks beautiful Maria, you were blessed with a temperate Autumn day that allowed you to sit on dry benches, possibly crack open an equally non-drenched book or sketchpad and wile a few hours away – but please remember, we are enslaved by a tyrannically British weather system meaning what you encountered was a rarity. How do we mere mortals connect with nature when the very same elements conspire against us?” I would say, firstly: “tldr, mate.” I would then tell you about the venues for hire the park has. Keen to not let bad weather keep people from experiencing the haven they’ve created, Simon and Monique have some truly incredible spaces for hire that are dotted around the park.
You can check out the different spaces on the website here. My favourites are The Retreat and The Island. I find the modern aesthetic comforting (maybe it’s because we ourselves live in a new-build) but also, the furnishings and the woodburners add a level of homey cosiness that really turns these places into something special. This would be a great place to come with your books, your paints or whatever implement you use to create (in my case, my journal and my laptop with Word Processor all fired up!) As well as that, they are currently running a Winter Art School which includes courses in painting, photography and crafts led by experienced professionals. If you’re interested in booking an escape or finding out more about the courses, you can do so through the website where guidelines for prices are also listed.
As you might be able to tell from my photos, I was feeling particularly inspired by how Autumn had coloured everything – especially the flowers and vegetables that were growing in the kitchen gardens.
A particular favourite of mine was the gorgeous archway built of climbers that I couldn’t quite recognise – but I bet they are a real Instagrammable treat in the summer!
We didn’t eat at the Cafe on this trip but I couldn’t help but to fall in love with what a beautiful place it was to sit and have a snack – overlooking the gardens, with the lakes and sculptures in the distance.
So, when the weather does threaten to fail us, I know where I might be heading for a little inspiration and a little retreat into nature….
You can read more about the Park on the website here, currently open Tues-Sat, 10am-5pm. Please be mindful that the park does not allow any pets or children under the age of fourteen.