I love the quarry because in a very unfashionable way, I also love Portland. The sun always seems to shine there, and when I was doing a bit of research just now, I discovered that it really does - 34% more sunshine on ave than the rest of the country. I’ve had the pleasure of walking around the island with Hannah, who I’ve mentioned below, is such a fountain of knowledge and enthusiasm. On our way down to Church Ope cove one evening she pointed out a piece of stone which had been marked by Christopher Wren to go to be made into Westminster Abbey, but for some reason was left behind…..
For 260 years stone was taken from the 40 acres of Tout Quarry to be used for buildings around the world including Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey and the United Nations Building in New York. The last stone was taken out in 1982 and in 1983 the Tout Quarry Sculpture Park was created. It commissions sculptors to create permanent and temporary work in the labyrinths and gullies of the quarry workings which now includes a fallen angel from Anthony Gormley and a zen garden by Philip King. Courses are run by Hannah Sofaer and Paul Crabtree who are skilled sculptors, enthusiasts and historians of the workings of the quarry on the island. They are also currently planning an outside amphitheatre space overlooking the sea.
Whitesheet Down, Mere, Wilts
In an age when anything can be art, I’d recommend exploring the Neolithic burial mounds and ramparts of the Iron Age fort at Whitesheet Down, between Mere and Maiden Bradley. The site was excavated and documented in the early 19th
Century by Henry Hoare of Stourhead (who, among other things, noted turning up a skull that “grinn'd horribly a ghastly smile”).
Whether for archaeological interest, or to look at the extensive site as a 3000 year-old art installation, this is a great place to think away a few hours. Children will enjoy letting their imagination run wild here too. Take the A3092 from Mere towards Maiden Bradley, turning right on the narrow track just before the Red Lion at Kilmington and follow your nose.
Ideally pick a time when the modern world is glued to reality TV and you’ll have the place to yourself. In the last of the evening light, not only are the elevation and downland views exhilarating, there’s a palpable sense of what I can only describe as a “presence.” As kids in the 80s we used to scare ourselves witless camping on these ramparts under a full moon – needless to say, the memories are of sleepless nights. And of feeling anything but alone.
Sarah Mead, Yeo ValleyThe Theatre Shop
, Cleveland, Somerset
I was lucky to visit The Theatre Shop in Cleveland a few times last year. A pop up theatre in a disused shop on Cleveland Triangle this is an inspiring example of what is possible when a community get together with energy and determination to put on some first class entertainment including theatre, dance and music. The brainchild of The Theatre Orchard team, the relaxed setting, with upstairs bar, attracted a wide audience of locals united by the desire to support something entirely positive. Run wholly by volunteers, Theatre Orchard are currently fund raising for the current season. For my part, I laughed til my cheeks ached at the brilliant Living Spits,' Living Quiz' and sat entranced by the daftness that was Gloriator. I'm looking forward to what the new season holds enormously.
Lucy Stevens Founder of OV NaturalsJohn Leach Pottery
You are greeted with an array of reassuringly sturdy-looking rustic kitchenware. Further into the gallery are more varied pieces, hand-thrown by 3 potters including owner John Leach (the grandson of Bernard Leach, no less).
Carefully curated art exhibitions also decorate the walls & plinths. A recent favourite was Matilda Temperley's "The Floods", with heart-rendingly beautiful photographs & stories.
After a browse, drive 2 miles up the road to Langport's Bow Wharf Cafe, to discuss your impressions over a cuppa.
Steven Lamb, Brand Director River CottageHauser & Wirth SomersetHauser & Wirth Somerset
I love this little gem of a gallery sitting unassumingly in the village of Muchelney on the Somerset levels.
It might seem fickle to suggest but my favourite Art Gallery is one that I have only come across within the last month. It is nestled in the Somerset countryside although it has sister and brother galleries scattered across the globe in Zurich, London, New York and Los Angeles. The impressive lineage of Hauser & Wirth locations (including Bruton in Somerset) really does mean that the exhibits and events are truly cosmopolitan, contemporary and world class. The spaces are so inviting and well-proportioned but most importantly beautifully lit and unpretentious. There is a synergy between the buildings and the land that are immediately apparent and the gallery attracts both visitors and artists in residence from all over. As well as all this – it just so happens to sell some of the best charcuterie ever from the on-site restaurant Roth Bar and Grill.www.stevenlamb.net