If I hadn't stumbled across a blog post about Asthall Manor, I wouldn't have known that there was a sculpture garden on my doorstep. And it was very fortunate indeed that I came across it in the last week, as yesterday was the last day of the exhibition - and the garden will then be closed until the next one, in 2014. So I have to start with thanks to Charlotte @ The Galloping Gardener for drawing this to my attention. (If you enjoy virtual tours of lush and verdant spaces as much as I do, you'll find a lot to love on Charlotte's blog.)
So yesterday, we drove across to Oxfordshire. I have to confess that, as we struggled to find a parking space in the muddy field designated the car park, I was getting a little bit worried about how many people six acres could comfortably accommodate without everyone constantly getting in everyone else's way. After all, it was the last day of the exhibition, and one of very few rain-free days in the past month. Of course it was going to be busy. But once we were past the initial queue for tickets, everyone spread out and it didn't feel anywhere near as crowded as I'd feared.
From huge and imposing installations to smaller, more playful pieces, there was a little bit of everything here, and most of it very much suited to my tastes. The charming neighbourhood church also housed a small number of sculptures.
The garden at Asthall Manor is classic Cotswold cottage. I loved the juxtaposition of soft-edged foliage with the hard edges of the stone sculptures: the garden was improved by the exhibition, and the pieces certainly worked well in the context of the landscape. Whoever set it up had thought long and hard about lines of sight, with a surprise around every corner. If I had a few thousand pounds spare to spend on art, I'd certainly consider splashing out on a piece or two for my own garden.
It was great to see people getting up close and personal with the art...
...as well as photographers risking a close encounter with the wet grass, all for the perfect shot:
If you want to see more, check out the rest of my photos on Flickr - and let me know in the comments which piece is your favourite.