The Wonders of Cheeseburn

Well as you know we love to discover one of the North East’s hidden treasures. One such gem that has been on Lucy’s radar for some time now is somewhere she has wanted to visit for quite a while, Cheesnburn Sculpture Gardens  just outside of the village of Stamfordham. Paul even with all his Tourist Information knowledge had to put his hands up and admit its a place he had never heard of. This was very much about to be addressed.. 

The Gardens are not normally open to the public said for a handful of weekends throughout the year. Cheeseburn Grange has an eight hundred year history and within its grounds is Cheeseburn Grange Hall which was remodelled in 1820 by one John Dobson. In 1992 Simon and Joanna Riddell undertook the task of restoring the gardens which are an absolute delight to behold. 

We visited on one of its open weekends and as is customary on one of our jaunts into rural Northumberland with our non driving status, Lucy’s parents took us in their car. Parking is in the field just outside the main entrance and the number of cars revealed that these open weekends are a hugely popular affair. As soon as you walk through the entrance you realise that you are in for a treat.......

We did say “Sculpture” Gardens and as you enter the grounds you are met by some magnificent creations. Cheeseburn Sculpture describes itself as “a unique destination for contemporary art in the North East of England”. Throughout the grounds there are permanent and temporary sculptures and installations. There are treats around every corner and certainly a fair few surprises. Lucy was in absolute heaven having finally managed to see the Gardens and enjoyed asking Paul if he would running through the grounds to see what we would come across next. Paul duly obliged.

For 2019 there are sixteen new artists who are exhibiting their sculptures and installations throughout the grounds. Seeing there work in such unique surroundings really does challenge your perceptions and question what you are looking at which is always a very healthy thing for the mind. 

One particular installation that really gave us food for thought was by Clare Townley a graduate of Newcastle University. Clare was selected as the 2018 winner of the Gillian Dickinson North East Sculptor of the Year award. It took Clare nine months to produce her magnificently dystopian installation named “Noastalgie de la boue - Plastic Friend” . It was a hugely impressive sight intertwined with the tall trees and all made from recycled plastic. For Paul he felt like he was amidst some apocalyptic future from his beloved Doctor Who.

There was even a swing to sit on and contemplate the impact of plastic on the rural environment. A hugely topical piece. Clare was there in person to talk about her work and it was so interesting to hear how the work was put together. 

It was also great to see the proposed fifty five metre sculpture by Simon Hitchens which was selected for the Elizabeth Landmark project at Cold Law in Northumberland. It looks like it is going to be a breathtaking sight on the landscape and shall certainly be a huge talking point. 

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Then we came across the Gnomes! Yes Gnomes. This was a piece that could be the stuff of nightmares to many or an unmade late 1980’s horror movie. As with much of the work in the grounds you just never know what you are going to come across. Lucy was certainly cautious around those cheeky and rather terrifying Gnomes. 

In addition to the amazing volume of work on display you could also see the work of some local potters and sculptors and buy their work.

There was something around every turn and opening and some truly unexpected sights. Paul loved the monkeys!

You can also take some time out and enjoy the tranquillity of the chapel which was bully in 1820 and again designed by John Dobson. Whilst in there you cannot fail to notice the magnificent oil painting above the alter, “The Decent of Our Saviour from the Cross”. It is by the Flemish artist JS Verillin and painted in 1874. It’s just one of the many treats you unexpectedly come across at Cheeseburn. It just keeps on giving these wonderful surprises so we'll hold on the photos so you can enjoy the Chapel as a real surprise.

If you require nourishment then there are cakes galore to enjoy along with teas and coffee where you can sit outside and think about all you have seen. It’s certainly a visit you will never forget and really gets you thinking and the creative juices flowing. 

If you feel inspired to visit and we heartily recommend it the sculpture gardens are open on the following dates over the rest of the summer:

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