If you go down to Avebury Manor gardens, you're sure of some nice surprises...As summer yields to autumn, just now you can bump into all sorts of fauna, flora and human forms in the gardens of Avebury Manor - all thanks to the National Trust's third annual Sculpture Exhibition in the Garden.
This exhibition runs through to Sunday, October 7 and gives visitors a great chance to see the gardens at a really good time of year - and to study works by twenty-one sculptors both close-up and viewed from afar in this unique setting.
The exhibition has been curated by Hazel Barry-Scott and she has brought together something for every taste: "We like to celebrate the quirky as well as the traditional and each piece brings a new way of looking at the garden."
The photo above shows Martin Adamson's Sloth (in cold cast iron and bronze) hanging lifelike from one of the garden's fruit trees. Adamson's journey towards sculpture began while working as a model maker for companies such as Aardman and the BBC. He certainly captures this sloth's slouchy and wayward character.
Tom Hiscocks, who has a studio in Pewsey, has two of his steel figures in the exhibition. In front of the manor there is Female Torso [left] and sitting on the grass behind the Manor is a pensive, male-looking figure Many Become One [right] - both in corten steel.
He uses steel 'slices' - rather like cross sectional images from an MRI scan - which create a form that is constant but also changes as the viewer moves or as light and colour changes it.
In similar vein his Horse Drinking has become an admired feature at Newbury Racecourse. It will stay there until the end of the new jumps season in April 2019.
The scale of Many Become One is interesting. From afar it seems quite small - almost retiring. But when you get close and see how the figure changes as you walk round it - it becomes a much larger presence. It certainly fascinated two young visitors to the opening evening - Amelia and Cornelia Gargas.
Their father Piotr Gargas studied architectural masonry in Poland and now lives in Oxford and has worked on the renovation of many of the town's iconic buildings.
If you fail to find Martin Adamson's Sloth lurking among the plums, you cannot miss some of the exhibition's birds. One of Diccon Dadey's stainless steel owls sits proudly on top of a spade among the shrubs - and the spade comes with the figure ready for the buyer's own garden. He is also showing a splendid kestrel with glinting colours.
If the variety of sculpture and colours of the flowerbeds are striking, so is the green of the garden's grass. Head gardener Simon Brooks has not watered the extensive lawns during the very dry weather, but has relied on long cutting and spiking. The result is - well - enviable.
And he loves having the sculptures at the Manor: "The exhibition is something that complements the garden perfectly, reminiscent of time past when the garden would have been adorned with statues and sculptures."
Simon Brooks is shown standing in front of the Manor and beside Jane Rickards' massive Bird Woman (White Eagle). This is in fibreglass reinforced resin and is not for sale. But you could order a bronze or resin cast of this intriguing work.
One of the skills of this curator is the perfect placing of the sculptures in around the varied parts of the gardens. Victoria Westaway's Boy with a Copper Bird (in wire) sits a bit cockily on the well-top in a wilder section of the gardens. And Kay Singla's Calmness Within (in clay and bronze resin) sits, eyes closed, as if she's had enough of the day - enough even of some gorgeous flowers and the Manor's roofs and chimneys - and just wants some peace and quiet.