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North Downs Way Arts Trail

It’s begun! Two new permanent artworks have been installed along the North Downs Way National Trail in Kent and a further 5 will be added with completion expected by Autumn 2022. 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 project managed by Surrey Hills Arts. 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 project managed by Dover Arts Development (DAD) in Kent 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.

Installed this month was 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 along the Via Francigena section of the trail is ‘After the Black Gold’ designed by Sam Little and Ryan Cook from Channel which takes its inspiration from the local mining heritage of the village where it’s based. Known as ‘White City’ to the mining community, Woolage Village was built in 1912 to accommodate miners and workers associated with nearby Snowdown Colliery. This piece takes the form of a timber structure supporting two lean-to roof pitches which together provide shelter for a bench. On one side you can see the beautiful views looking out towards the colliery and on the other side the houses and play area of the village.

The Via Francigena section of the North Downs Way Arts Trail will be completed by December 2021 including the final installation, Sedile Francigena by Polysemic which will be installed at Barham Downs. A further 2 pieces are then due to be installed next year in Kent along with another in Surrey so the whole arts trail will include a total of 8 art installations along the 153 mile trail by the end of 2022. 

Peter Morris, North Downs Way National Trail Manager said ‘With artworks in Surrey we’re so excited to launch the arts trail project in Kent and are delighted to see these incredibly inspiring artworks in place. 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.

If you’d like to be involved in the next phase of this project in Kent then you can respond to this request to quote for project management work.

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.

Request to Quote for Arts Trail Project Manager

Kent Downs AONB and North Downs Way (NDW) National Trail are seeking an Arts & Creative partner to manage a project that will create two new art installations on (or near) the North Downs Way in Kent.