From the mountains to the sea – art takes to the lakes and fells in the Lake District

A major open-air art exhibition following the watercourse from the heart of the Lake District to the foot of Windermere will be staged this spring.
Reflective Moments is a celebration of the work carried out by Windermere Reflections, the Ambleside-based group tasked with improving water quality in the catchment area, as they near the end of their three-year programme.
It will feature workshops, events, and temporary art installations created by Cumbria-based artist Steve Messam, starting at Dunmail Raise. These will follow the flow of water down the River Rothay through Grasmere and Rydal water into Windermere, finishing at Fell Foot at Newby Bridge. Locations along the way are Wordsworth’s former home at Allan Bank in Grasmere, the viewing station in the grounds of Rydal Hall, Borrans Park near Ambleside, the Windermere ferry, and Claife viewing station.
The exhibition aims to celebrate the work of Windermere Reflections while highlighting the significant contribution of the Lakeland fells to international culture and heritage.
“The fells have influenced the way we perceive and appreciate landscape,” said WR programme manager Liz Davey. “Windermere’s water flows from Dunmail down through the catchment past historic landscape vantage points of Roman and modern British warfare, to those of the picturesque and Romanticism movements.”
Events forming part of the exhibition include participation in aerial photography and Chinese landscape art, and a chance to create poetry on board the Windermere car ferry.
Throughout the week, visitors will be encouraged to share their viewing experiences and photographs online.
Steve Messam is an environmental artist based near Brough. He creates large-scale temporary artworks in stunning landscapes all over the world – from carpet patterns made from 25,000 jars of ink on Lindisfarne to a series of vast balls made from umbrellas in the heart of Shanghai and over-sized bubbles flying over a boating lake on the Fylde coast.
He said: “The challenge is to encourage people to experience the history of looking at the landscape which has made the Lakes globally important”
Reflective Moments will comprise the following:
• Dunmail Raise viewing box – the WW2 pillbox beside the Grasmere to Keswick Road will be transformed into a Camera Obscura – a fitted lens in one of the windows projects the view over Grasmere on to the opposite wall, while the outside will be clad in 2,000 silver balls, reflecting the surrounding landscape and making it shimmer in sunlight. From May 23.
• At Allan Bank in Grasmere, once home of William Wordsworth and a key location in the development of the Romantic movement, visitors will be able to send their cameras 1,000ft into the air beneath weather balloons to take stunning aerial photographs in a drop-in workshop with artist Bryony Purvis. May 24/25
• Rydal Hall: Cumbrian artist Irene Sanderson will host free workshops in Chinese landscape painting in the viewing “grotto”. The oldest purpose-built viewing station in the UK, it was refurbished in 2005 and overlooks a waterfall.(Rydal Hall is one mile north of Ambleside.) May 24/25
• Borrans Park at Waterhead will see the installation of a giant kaleidoscope, three metres high and five metres long, which will look out down Windermere and fragment the view while people silhouetted on the lakeshore become moving patterns.
• Windermere car ferry – Foot passenger can create their own Lakeland verse with giant magnetic poetry. From May 24 for a week.
• Claife viewing station: the ‘Sound Mirror’ is a collection of unheard sounds of water and the lake emanating from the rocks and trees. The sounds of trees drinking and crayfish walking are part of the audible treasure hunt. May 30/31 and June 1.
• Fell Foot park will host ‘Drop’, Messam’s giant reflective installation based on a raindrop – the building blocks of the Lakes – and standing the height of a three-storey building. There will be another chance to take aerial photos with Bryony Purvis. From May 30.
The project is part of Heritage Lottery funded Windermere Reflections to mark three years of campaigning to improve the water quality in the Windermere catchment area. Liz Davey said: “As with all our work this has been a true partnership initiative from start to finish and in selecting the sites for this work we are grateful for the support of the National Trust and their tenant farmers, South Lakes District Council, Cumbria County Council and Windermere Ferry, and Rydal Hall.”
She added: “Through our work we’ve enjoyed using art as a way of introducing environmental issues and connecting people to their landscape.”
Artist Steve Messam added: “This is a way to facilitate opportunities for people to share what they see, and to share their understanding of the landscape. The way that the project finishes at the foot of Windermere, with the possibility of following the water’s onward journey out to sea with aerial photos, truly connects key areas through the catchment and the water’s ultimate destination – the mixing pot of the sea.”

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