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Is it art or is it nature?


Northumberlandia - lake around the sculpture

At first glance the land formations of this small country park look quite natural, if a little manicured – some small hillocks with ponds at their base. They are anything but, however! This is not nature, but art – art on a very large scale.

Northumberlandia, also known as the ‘Lady of the North’, is in fact a sculpture in earth, created from the waste produced by open cast mining in this area. It depicts a woman, lying on her back, about a quarter of a mile from head to toe. You can only really appreciate that this is the case by looking at aerial photos, but you do get some sense of it as you walk the many footpaths that wind between and across her features.

Northumberlandia - view down the body from the head

View from left arm

Looking up her nose!

Northumberlandia is the work of American artist Charles Jencks who specialises in these landform sculptures (there are several more in Scotland, for instance). She was born when the Banks Group mining company applied in 2004 to dig for coal on land belonging to Blagdon Estates. They and the estate owners recognised that, while the mining would scar the local landscape, there was also an opportunity to enhance it. Part of the land next to the planned mine was donated by Blagdon Estates and the project jointly funded by them and the mining company. This has resulted in the art form being developed alongside the mining operation although it is intended to remain here long after the mine will have been exhausted and work ceased.

Work began in 2010, with 1.5 million tonnes of surplus soil and clay being transported from the mine to the site and carefully shaped according to Jencks’ design. Once the major landscape works were complete the sculpture was planted, transforming it into a living landscape. Her face, paths and viewing platforms were constructed with a hard stone surface with every feature surveyed and checked against the carefully designed plans.

People on her face

Chris on one of his favourite two mounds!

The result is a sculpture that is 100 feet high and a quarter of a mile long. Four miles of footpaths wind across the site, some around the base of the features and others allowing you to climb to the high points of her face, knees – and yes, points between these! These vary in steepness – a map at the site helpfully categorises them as level, moderate or steep. From the top of the features you get good views of the mining work still in progress nearby (best from the face) and of the surrounding area, including distant views of Newcastle city centre and the local shrine to football, St James’ Park!

View towards Newcastle

View of opencast mining

Bulrush by the lake

The park is now administered jointly by the Land Trust, who look after the open spaces and the art work itself, and the Northumberland Wildlife Trust, who are responsible for the visitor centre and café. The intention is not to keep it ‘groomed’ but to let nature takes its course, so the forms will evolve over time.

Bulrushes by the lake

Posted by ToonSarah 06:43 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged landscapes art views sculpture

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I tried to look up the difference between Open Cast and Open Pit mining and couldn't find what difference there was (if any). Just that strip mining is a little different. Open pit mining is definitely safer for the miners if the ecological damage can be mitigated.

by greatgrandmaR

I'm not sure that there is a difference - they could be different terms for the same thing. Fortunately here (and elsewhere in Northumberland) steps are being taken to minimise any ecological damage by committing to full restoration of the landscape after mining is finished - although I don't know of anywhere going to the extremes they are here!

by ToonSarah

There's nothing like a good bit of mine rehab ...
Put differently, there's nothing in mine rehab that looks quite like this!
And it's brilliant!

by Cathy Reichardt

'Open cast' and 'open pit' mining are synonymous (the antonym of 'underground mining'.
Strip mining means that you dump the waste from your current mining into the bits that have previously been mined out, thus minimising the size of the hole.

by Cathy Reichardt

"'Open cast' and 'open pit' mining are synonymous" - as I suspected, although I'd not heard the latter term. Thanks for clarifying Cathy, and yes, this is rather brilliant!

by ToonSarah

You could probably get more enthusiastic uptake from miners for this sort of rehab if you emphasised that there were boobs involved!

by Cathy Reichardt

lol Cathy ;) Chris certainly got more interested when he started to work out which bit was which!

by ToonSarah

Strip mining is done on a relatively flat area-as was said- putting the spoil in the previous strip. Open pit does the terraces down into a hole. And then there is mountain top removal where they blast off the whole top of the mountain.

by greatgrandmaR

I haven't heard anything like this, quite funny way of combine art and mining!

by hennaonthetrek

Yes, it's odd, but quite fun!

by ToonSarah

being a bird, you have the best view in town I reckon!

by Ils1976

Yes, I think so Ils!

by ToonSarah

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