I first encountered Kielder Forest, in northern Northumberland many years ago when I was walking the Pennine Way. It was impressive but rather soulless with the conifer plantations smothering the original landscape. At that time the reservoir was under construction.
I first encountered the “sky spaces” of James Turrell, nearly as long ago, at an Exhibition on London’s South Bank. I remember he had built a small pavilion on the top of the building where you could sit and watch the changing sky through an opening in the roof. It seems a very simple thing to do but the effect is quite extraordinary once experienced.
I bought a catalogue at that first Exhibition in London which explained that this was just one of many of Turrell’s “sky spaces”, the largest being a crater in Arizona which he was hollowing out in a 20 year project. The artist himself was a keen amateur pilot which also influenced his obsession with the changing skies.
Since then I have read about Mr. Turrell at various intervals, designing a sky space in a grotto in Ireland and making a viewing pavilion for the eclipse in Cornwall a few years ago. (I read that it was built on slightly the wrong orientation, so nothing could be seem from within, but that may have been just malicious gossip).
There are examples of Turrell’s sky spaces around the UK including Ireland, Northumberland (Kielder Forest) and in Yorkshire.
James Turrell on his sky space installation in the Kielder Forest
“Kielder Skyspace is a buried cylindrical chamber, entered through a tunnel and capped by a roof with a 3m diameter circular opening in its centre. Around the base of the inside wall is a continuous seat above which all surfaces have a white, visually uninterrupted surface. Behind the seating, low-energy light sources are arranged to give a continuous ring of ambient light illuminating the walls and ceiling.
“Visitors to the Skyspace will find themselves in the middle of this clear, precise chamber. From the seating, the artist’s precise manipulation of interior and exterior light causes the sky seen through the roof opening to seem an almost solid form. The Kielder Skyspace works on the measured and delicately balanced play between artificial, interior light and the northern natural light of the Kielder landscape.
“During the changing light conditions at dusk and dawn, visitors to the work can expect to experience a rich display of tone and colour.” mobile.orbit.zkm.de/?q=node/309
The Deer Shelter at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park
In Yorkshire, The Art Fund, the UK’s leading art charity, commissioned a permanent Skyspace by Turrell at Yorkshire Sculpture Park (YSP) within the Park’s 18th-century Grade II Listed building – the deer shelter.
“The Deer Shelter Skyspace consists of a large square chamber with an aperture cut into the roof. Through this aperture the visitor is offered a heightened vision of the sky, seemingly transformed into a trompe l’oeil painting.”
There are other art installations in Kielder Forest and by the reservoir which may appeal to folly fanciers everywhere:
Chris Drury’s Wave Chamber: a drystone cone which has a camera obscura incorporated into its central chimney. A mirror reflects light from the surface of the reservoir into a lens that, in turn, projects it on to a circular concrete screen on the floor of the chamber.
The Belvedere, which was commissioned as a waiting room at one of the stopping-off points for the Kielder Water ferry. Made of stainless steel, with a yellow skylight and visor-like window aperture, the long narrow view of water and forest you get from inside echoes the linear nature of the landscape at this point.
Tower Knowe Visitor Centre (0870 240 3549, www.kielder.org), near the dam on the southern side of the reservoir, is open daily 10am-6pm (closes 4pm in October).
Visitors can stay at Leaplish cabins, at Keilder’s Waterside park – these are about to be renovated and the Hollybush Inn in Greenhaugh.
The Hollybush Inn (01434 240391, www.thehollybushinn.co.uk), Greenhaugh, just outside the valley, is an excellent base with simple clean rooms and good home cooking: £27 per person b & b, sharing, or £35 for single occupancy; starters from £3.50, main courses £7.50; weekend set menu from £12.95.
Find out more about Kielder Forest here http://www.northumberland.gov.uk/VG/kielder-redesdale.html
This is the Yorkshire Sculpture Parks web site http://www.ysp.co.uk