Inspiring awe and wonder since 1986
The Forest of Dean Sculpture Trust and The Forestry Commission have worked in partnership for the last 30 years to create this vital Sculpture Trail that enjoys visitors of over 300,000 people per year. We rely on donations and fundraising to commission new works for the trail.
The Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail was established in 1986, thanks in large part to the shared vision of Martin Orrom, then Forestry and Environment Officer for the Forestry Commission, Jeremy Rees, the founding director of the Arnolfini gallery in Bristol and Rupert Martin, Curator at the Arnolfini. The original commissions, collectively titled Stand and Stare, came out of the land art movement, in which landscape and the works of art were seen as inextricably connected. Amongst the first group of artists to install works on the trail were David Nash, Magdalena Jetelova, Ian Hamilton Finlay and Cornelia Parker. The sculptures were intended to
‘…arrest our attention, cause us to pause and contemplate both the isolated object and its surroundings. They were to act as catalysts for our imaginations, releasing new ideas in us about our relationship to nature and the environment, and prompting a sense of awe and wonder.’ (Martin, 1990)
The brief given to the artists was very clear – that the works should respond intellectually, historically, physically and conceptually to the particularity of place. In other words, that all of the works would be specific to the Forest of Dean, rather than reflecting generally on environmental issues or on a generic notion of a forest. The artworks you see on the trail were not simply placed here, but developed and inspired by the place – from its history and its material qualities.
The works were deliberately discrete in the woodland. The idea being that visitors would have to seek them out or come across them by chance. However, their popularity demanded footpaths and signposting. Nevertheless, the Forest is not a gallery. It is a location, a place, an industry, an environment, a dwelling place for flora and fauna and a site for leisure activity. The sculptures and the environment are of equal value and do not compete for attention. The Forest of Dean has a fascinating history and the immediate impression of rural idyll and romantic landscape belies the historical tensions between industrial and sylvan, man-made and natural, utopian and dystopian, settlements and forest, all of which have shaped this unique environment. As such it presents a rich source of inspiration – not only for artists – but for everyone.
Following that first wave of commissions the Forest of Dean Sculpture Trust was set up to oversee the maintenance of the trail and to commission new works – both permanent and temporary. The Trust has sought to stay true to the vision of our founders, whilst reflecting current movements in sculpture.
We invite visitors to enjoy the works on a wide range of levels. You will not find labels and information on the route, but instead are encouraged to investigate the sculptures in your own way.
You, of course, will bring with you your own stories, narratives and experiences which will influence the way you encounter these artworks in the forest. We hope you enjoy them now and come back again soon – either in another season (as these sculptures enjoy ever-changing visual contexts) or to see the new works as they appear over the next phase of commissioning.
The FODST provides opportunities for artist professional development by commissioning artists at crucial stages in their careers. The Trust’s expertise in selecting and commissioning artists at early stages in their careers is nationally recognised as significant and vital to their subsequent international careers. For example, David Nash created his first Dome in the forest in 1986, he then went onto create them across the world.
In 2016, the Trust has installed two new temporary artworks and two more permanent works following support from Forestry Commission and major investment from Arts Council England, Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, and the Gloucestershire Environmental Trust.
The Sculpture Trail is Owned and managed by the Forestry Commission. The Forest of Dean Sculpture Trust is a registered charity no.1059078 that raises money to commission new artworks. The charity is governed by a board of voluntary trustees: Nicholas Bury (Chair), Sarah Bowden (Vice-Chair & Acting Treasurer), Glynn Williams, Joanna Greenhill, Jo Volley, Andrew Stonyer and Geoff Morrow. The commissions of the Trust are overseen by Project Director Cathy Mager.
The University of Gloucestershire library holds the archive of the Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail, to find out more visit their website.