As I stood looking out across fields of green, my heart sank. Nothing. Judging by the photos on the website I thought they would be the centre-piece of the park, but they weren’t. I knew I’d left it a little late as the exhibition had already been on for a number of months, but I was certain I’d still get to see at least some of the sculptures. I sulked like a small child for a few moments, they were the only reason I’d come and now they were nowhere to be seen.
The sun was high, the sky was blue, the temperature was hot and I’d worn my new pink vegan Birkenstocks for the occasion. But as I entered the gate and started side-stepping sheep shit, I started to think I’d made the wrong choice. I put my hands on my hips, let out a sigh and realised I’d have to do a lot more side-stepping if I was to find the KAWS sculptures I’d come to see.
Set in 500 acres of parkland with visitors reaching over 400,000 each year, Yorkshire Sculpture Park is a place for people of all ages to experience nature, art installations and sculpture. Wandering freely along rolling hills and gravel pathways there’s always something on the horizon to photograph, touch, or climb upon, as well as 5 indoor galleries to meander around. You’d think that something of this size would come with a price tag, but the fact is – it’s free. The only thing you pay for is parking – and food. Being a registered charity, the parking fee along with donations from generous visitors is how the park keeps running.
Up until last month, I’d always resisted visiting. Whenever anyone mentioned it I always made excuses as to why it wasn’t the right time, or I would semi-agree to going and then change my mind the day before. For some reason, it didn’t jump out at me. I’ve wandered around The Tate in Liverpool on more than one occasion and pulled a face, not quite getting the piece of art in front of me. Too afraid my (unintentional) ignorance to certain pieces of art work would be dragged with me to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, I’d always hesitated at visiting. Something in my gut just didn’t think it was for me – and I was right.
I wanted to like it, I really did – but unfortunately I didn’t. With a map that didn’t appear to show where the KAWS sculptures were, we wandered aimlessly around the park. With each step I became more and more frustrated that we couldn’t find them. Eventually, after circling around, detouring off and also asking other visitors if they knew where they were, we found them right near the beginning of the park – but in the opposite direction to which we’d walked. Like giant variations of a Disney character, I stood in awe gazing up them. Imposing and ominous yet serene and beautiful at the same time, they didn’t disappoint. What was disappointing was the ignorance of other visitors. Instead of waiting for a few seconds for people to take photographs, they would look directly at the camera and purposely walk into shot. Good manners cost nothing and I don’t understand why some people are so rude.
Wandering off the beaten track exploring woodland and tall grasses, I soon realised this was my favourite part of the day. The greenery, the nature, and the meandering around taking photos. Aside from KAWS and the Antony Gormley sculpture, I wasn’t drawn to anything else.
While I appreciate the good work that’s done here, for me, it was more about the landscape. It wasn’t a wasted day and it was lovely to get out and enjoy the sunshine, but if I’d have known that getting off the beaten track was going to be my favourite thing, I would have laced up my walking boots and headed to the Lake District instead.
The park is open all year round except 24th & 25th December.
Parking fees apply: Up to 1 hour £2.50, 1-2 hours £5, all day £8