Residency at the National Trust
Leith Hill Place
A few months ago I proposed the creation of an interactive art installation, with well-being and mental health at its core, to the National Trust. I will be resident at Leith Hill Place, linked to the Wedgwood family, Darwin and Ralph Vaughan Williams, in Spring 2019. This is a journal of my research and my experience at Leith Hill Place.
11th December 2018
The proposal is two fold: to create sculptures that imagine Caroline Wedgwood and her Rhododendron Wood and to create a temporary clay sculpture along with the members of the public who visit the property.
Today was day one: kicked off with a meeting with the property team to discuss logistics and expectations. It is very exciting!
25th January 2019
Meetings for this residency take place in the most beautiful places. Julie Hoyle (my partner in this endeavour) and I met up with Sophie Parker, National Trust's Area Ranger at Leith Hill, who was working in the wood with the team of volunteers who join her every Friday to help conserve and manage the Rhododendron Wood. The team have been busy planting 4000 bulbs to add colour and interest throughout the year. This is part of a body of work to research the history of the garden and put together a conservation management plan to inform future management.
I needed to source wood for one of my projects and thought to forage for it in the area’s woodland but Sophie explained how important it was to leave fallen wood on the ground, "standing dead wood along with fallen debris provide a wonderful array of microhabitats for our wildlife. Some of the large and old oaks throughout the woods on Leith Hill support the oak jewel beetle (Agrilus pannonicus), a nationally scarce species which requires exposed, dead standing trunks and large fallen boughs for larval development. It is crucial that we retain dead wood, as not only does it provide habitat for various invertebrates, but these invertebrates in turn provide food for other wildlife within the woodland. Not only this, but the wood decays and is fed back into to the soil where the nutrients are taken in by the roots of plants and trees, and the cycle starts again.” I need to find fallen wood that is not destined for the beetles!