If you go down to the woods today...

...you're sure for a sculptural surprise. On a walk through Grizedale Forest, in the Lake District, Mike Gerrard stumbled on a god of Thunder and a living room straight out of Habitat

"HABITAT'S my favourite," the little boy told us, with a fervour that would have brought a rosy glow to Sir Terence Conran's cheeks. "It's great, it's got a television and a sofa and everything." He consulted his clipboard. "It's number 42, down there on the left." We promised we wouldn't miss it, and returned to our cheese sandwiches.

We were gazing out at a small lake in the Grizedale Forest, between Windermere and Coniston Water. Out of the lake grew the bones of half a fish, several feet long. The reflections of the water cleverly completed the lower half of the wooden skeleton. Only One Fish Left it was called, one of dozens of magical natural sculptures in the Grizedale Forest Sculpture Project. We had thought it sounded fun, so had gone along, planning to spend an hour or two or however long it would take to complete the inevitable Sculpture Trail.

"How long will it take to get round?" we asked the woman in the Visitor Centre as we bought the guide map. "To see them all? I'd say about two days. There are about 70 shown on the map, and we're adding new ones regularly. And they're in several different places around the forest. So, two days at least." Two days? That`s not so much a trail, more a way of life.

The project began in 1977, when sculptors wanting to work in the natural environment of the forest were invited from around the world to come on residencies of up to six months. Working mainly in stone, wood, water and other natural materials, their projects are mostly hidden down tracks in the forest. Part of the fun is finding them in the first place. And fun they are, as the little boy with the clipboard and his family, trailing behind, confirmed. Small wooden carvings - of ants, wasps, bees, birds, deer, otters and other creatures - at the side of the main path indicate where you need to veer off and explore.

We headed for Habitat. Off to the right was something we had to see, one of several works by Andy Goldsworthy, the British genius at this kind of art form. His stunning works are in Australian deserts, Californian forests, Alaskan wildernesses, Japanese museums - and three are here in Grizedale. Off to our right was Taking a Wall for a Walk!, a long and sinuous piece of dry-stone walling which wiggles round trees as it disappears into the forest. "I enjoy the idea of walls travelling," Goldsworthy says in the guide, "old walls becoming new - changing shape in the process."

Nearby is The Passage hut by Keith Rand, out of the front of which a long, thin tree trunk projects, arched like a fishing rod. A family is just leaving, and seeing us apparently content to enjoy the creation from a distance, the mother tells us: "You've got to go up to it and go round the back. There's a little peep-hole. I won't say any more." Indeed, there is a little peep-hole, almost hidden, and as we leave we bump into a Dutch girl whose path keeps criss-crossing ours. "You've got to go round the back," we tell her.

Elsewhere, we meet up with the little boy and his family again. "Habitat's down that way," he tells us. We're going, we're going, honest! They have just been looking at God of Thunder 4 by Shigeo Toya. "Pain accompanies anger," says the artist's note, "The Thunder-god in pain makes a wry face. Pain is transmitted to a tree in a fusion with the Thunder-god." Hmmm... "You've got to thump it," says the little lad's dad. So we do, and an eerie reverberation fills the air.

And then we're at Habitat by Richard Caink, a living room complete with curtains and standard lamp, made from wood. It is big and bold and simple, a kind of wooden Fred Flintstone room. "The intention," according to the artist, "is to articulate notions of our relationship to the natural world," although I'm sure he'd be happy with the little boy's assessment: "It's great."

While some sculptures are fun, others are spooky, and the Wolves created by Sally Matthews are positively frightening. We knew they were there somewhere, and were talking under the outcrop on which they stand, when I happened to look up and nearly had a heart-attack. Looking down at me was a wolf, both realistic and a fairy-tale nightmare at the same time. And there was another one, and another. Elsewhere there are wild boars, elephants, waterwheels, fountains, owls and deer. On another trail, there are marimbas to play, extravagant seats to sit on, and a larch arch.

"Look," says my partner as we near the end, "through the trees." Has she spotted another sculpture? No, it's a bushy-tailed red squirrel, posing on a tree trunk. I get a sudden vision of it waiting till dark, when the last visitors leave, and heading for Habitat, sitting down with a packet of nuts and watching the telly.

For information, contact the Visitor Centre (tel: 01229 860010). Silverholme, in Graythwaite, a secluded Georgian house near the sculpture trail forest and on the shores of Lake Windermere offers b&b for pounds 23 per person per night, based on two sharing (tel: 015395 31332).

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Technical Supervisor

    £24800 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As one of London's leading Muse...

    Recruitment Genius: Centre Manager

    £14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Guru Careers: Accountant

    £28 - 45k (DOE): Guru Careers: An Accountant is needed to take control of the ...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Assistant Manager

    £18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This hotel in Chadderton is a p...

    Day In a Page

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before