As you follow winding paths through Gloucestershire’s Forest of Dean, don’t be too surprised if you come across a huge wooden chair or a deer spun from iron wire. They’re all part of the four-mile Sculpture Trail. Set up in 1986, it was designed to bring art into nature, with different artists commissioned to produce sculptures inspired by the forest. And almost 30 years on the project is still running, with 16 permanent and temporary artworks. I’ve been visiting since it opened and have some old favourites there since the start – like ‘Place’, a giant’s chair on a hillside overlooking the Cannop Valley, and ‘Iron Road’, a path of carved wooden railway sleepers on a stretch of disused railway track. Some sculptures are so subtle you could almost miss them, like the steel plates on the forest floor of ‘Dead Wood, and some are colourfully eye-catching, like the 15 foot by 10 foot stained-glass window of ‘Cathedral’, hanging between the trees.
The Sculpture Trail starts from Beechenhurst Lodge in the Forest of Dean, where you can park and buy a map of the route for £1 (generally a good idea as the route isn’t always hugely clear and we’ve never made it round without getting slightly lost!). The trail is about 4.5 miles long and takes two–three hours (though there are a couple of marked shortcuts). Entry to the trail is free and the site is open from 8am to dusk. You can find out more about the project and each artwork on the the Sculpture Trail website.