Coming soon - North Downs Way Art Trail

It’s begun! Six new permanent artworks will soon be installed along the North Downs Way National Trail with completion expected by Autumn 2022. Together with two existing artworks this will create a new arts trail that celebrates local heritage, inspiring views, nearby communities and surrounding wildlife as well as encouraging visitors to explore the beautiful Kent and Surrey countryside.

The North Downs Way Art Trail is designed to entice visitors to stop, rest and enjoy some of the beautiful views along the 153 mile long trail which runs from Dover in Kent to Farnham in Surrey. Due to launch in 2022 the artworks will all reflect the special characteristics of each beautiful location, will be made from sustainable materials and will also act as sculptural seats to allow visitors a chance to sit, reflect and relax surrounded by wonderful and inspiring art, history and nature. In addition each piece will be supported by a range of downloadable self-guided walking and/or cycling routes that will make visiting the sites even easier.

Existing artworks commissioned by Surrey Hills Arts include Optohedron, by Will Nash, located near Newlands Corner in Guildford which takes inspiration from the faceted structure of an insect’s eye. Constructed from weathered steel and locally sourced hazel, the spaces between the logs create homes for wildlife whilst the embedded kaleidoscopes allow visitors to view the landscape in new and beautiful ways. Photo credit: John Miller.

Also in Surrey is the newly installed Radius, by James Tunnard, located at Denbies Vineyard Estate in Dorking. The undulating curves of this sculptural seat reflect the shapes of the surrounding hills and valleys whilst the imprinted words, provided by local poets and individuals, encourage a sense of community spirit and engagement. It’s the perfect place to drink in the views after a brisk walk up the hill. Photo credit: John Miller.

Coming next are 3 new installations commissioned by Dover Arts Development (DAD) in Kent which will be installed at Barham Downs and Woolage Village near Canterbury and Waldershare Estate in Dover. These are all inspired by The Via Francigena, an ancient pilgrimage route that forms part of the North Downs Way section that runs from Canterbury to Rome. With world class artistic quality these artworks will incorporate an opportunity for rest and contemplation, as well as highlight the natural landscape and surrounding views. With contemporary relevance, speaking to the modern world and local communities, they will provide a reason to visit, pause and appreciate each specific location whilst also encouraging interaction from visitors. These will all be in place by December 2021.

The first to be confirmed by DAD is Monumenta Romana by Charles Holland Architect’s which draws on the role of pilgrimage in art, historical connections between England and Italy and ideas of the ruin and the relic. The sculpture takes its inspiration from The Belvedere, an 18th century ’folly’ visible from the site on the Waldershare Estate. The Belvedere is an early example of Palladian architecture in England, a style of architecture imported from Italy which will be reflected in the new artwork alongside artistic cross-currents between the two countries. For more information about the Via Francigena installations visit DAD’s website.

Next will be the final artwork in Surrey called Portal, by Philip Walker, which will be installed at Titsey Estate in Tatsfield by Spring 2022. Constructed in curved English oak the structure will serve to frame the incredible view across the landscape as it is approached, drawing the eye through it as it tapers from the outside inwards. It will also provide seating as a curved and intimate bench with carved inspirational quotes and lettering. To find out more about these installations and Surrey Hills Arts’ exciting plans please visit their website.

Finally two further artworks will be placed in Kent by Autumn 2022, yet to be commissioned these will also be similarly inspired by the surrounding location, history and nature.

Peter Morris, North Downs Way National Trail Manager said ‘With artworks already in place in Surrey we can’t wait to start the arts trail project in Kent and are excited to see these incredibly inspiring artworks begin to become a reality. With links to our pilgrimage heritage, local history and of course the wonderful North Downs Way and Via Francigena trails, it will be a great way for visitors to discover the trail and to sit, pause and appreciate the beauty around them.

The artworks form part of the International Green Pilgrimage and Experience projects both funded by the European Union Regional Development fund which aims to develop and promote sustainable tourism initiatives across pilot regions.

Can you help us find the missing piece?

We're looking for a large piece of Oak to complete 'Portal' one of the art installations planned to be added along the trail next year. If you can help please get in touch!