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Behind the scenes at Sculpture by the Lakes near Dorchester

Search for Enlightenment by Simon Gudgeon, one of the pieces you can see at Sculpture by the Lakes. (Photo: Simon Gudgeon)
Search for Enlightenment by Simon Gudgeon, one of the pieces you can see at Sculpture by the Lakes. (Photo: Simon Gudgeon)

Set amongst the picturesque countryside, just south of Dorchester, Sculpture by the Lakes is a tranquil haven that celebrates art and nature. Just outside the entrance to this award-winning sculpture park is the free-to-enter Makers Yard where visitors can browse handmade crafts, artisan gifts, as well as enjoying locally sourced food and drink.

While Sculpture by the Lakes boasts a 26-acre outdoor art venue, the Makers Yard is a hidden gem that comes into its own during the winter months, offering the same artistic experience while protected from the elements. With a café and restaurant, artisan shops, and an art gallery, the Makers Yard is an all-weather, year-round Dorset destination.

Great British Life: Some of the breakfasts on offer at The Kitchen. (Photo: Simon Gudgeon)Some of the breakfasts on offer at The Kitchen. (Photo: Simon Gudgeon)

Although better known for its art in situ, Sculpture by the Lakes also boasts an impressive kitchen garden, growing all manner of vegetables, herbs and edible flowers. The chefs work closely with the head kitchen gardener to ensure that their menu features fresh seasonal ingredients grown literal a stone’s throw from the kitchen, the rest are sourced as locally as possible. These come together in seasonally inspired dishes ranging from sizzling cooked breakfasts and fabulous lunches, with wine-pairing, to sumptuous afternoon teas. Their signature paella could rival traditional Spanish offerings, and their Asado lamb – cooked over a fire pit – is very popular. There isn’t a better spot for a weekend brunch and browse.

The Store sells a mindfully curated range of handcrafted and artisan gifts ranging from kimonos and pottery to scented candles and silk scarves. The Pantry, next door, is a tempting spot for any foodies, with edible treats and local spirits as well as possibly the tastiest sausage rolls in Dorset (made by The Kitchen).

The Gallery not only showcases some of Simon Gudgeon’s pieces (he co-owns Sculpture by the Lakes with his wife Monique, who is the Garden Director) but also works by other renowned national and international artists. These inspire a programme of events and exhibitions curated around topical themes throughout the year.

Great British Life: The Barn Gallery. (Photo: Simon Gudgeon)The Barn Gallery. (Photo: Simon Gudgeon)

Events at Sculpture by the Lakes

Sculpture by the Lakes’ award-winning annual exhibition FORM (April 2 – June 1) features works from more than 35 contemporary sculptors. The larger sculptures are set amongst the park’s lakes, islands, riverside, gardens, and woodland, with more intimate pieces exhibited at The Gallery, The Retreat and courtyard. FORM 2024 will also feature a monumental new piece by Nicola Godden: a 5m Icarus that visitors will be able to walk underneath. And Simon will be revealing four new pieces including his first sound sculpture.

The Plant Fair (a free event), on May 17 and 18, hosts exhibitors from garden suppliers and specialist nurseries. A month later, the free-to-enter Summer Festival, formerly the Dorset Arts Festival (June 25 – 29) features a dazzling array of exhibitors selling and demonstrating their craft from blacksmith forging and raku firing to workshops covering a huge range of art and craft skills.

Great British Life: Dancing Cranes by Simon Gudgeon. (Photo: Simon Gudgeon)Dancing Cranes by Simon Gudgeon. (Photo: Simon Gudgeon)

Botanical Wonders

Sculpture by the Lakes was recently awarded BGCI Botanic Garden Status, one of eight botanic gardens in the UK which include The Eden Project, Edinburgh Botanic Garden, The Botanic Garden of Wales and Cambridge University Botanic Garden. It has an impressive collection of more than 1,000 trees and shrubs – including many threatened species – as well as the National Collection of Forsythia, so visiting in early spring when this collection is in bloom is highly recommended.

Sculpture by the Lakes also hosts monthly horticultural workshops lead by experts in their field. These include John Cunningham, of the Royal Botanical Gardens of Edinburgh, who is hosting workshops on Winter Pruning Fruit Trees (Jan 13), and Rose Pruning (Feb 10).

Find out more, including booking on these courses, at

Great British Life: Voucher for the offer 2024Voucher for the offer 2024 Enjoy a free visit to Sculpture by the Lakes

We are inviting readers of Dorset Magazine to discover this tranquil haven with free entry for two to Sculpture by the Lakes between January 3 and February 29, 2024 (open Tuesday to Saturday, 10am –5pm). This Botanic Garden-accredited destination comprises the Sculpture Park with its extensive gardens, woodlands, lake and riverside walks, dotted with more than 130 large-scale contemporary sculptures. There’s also the free-to-enter Makers Yard which includes the Gallery with its exhibitions, the Kitchen with a seasonal locally sourced menu; the Store, brimming with creations from 80 artists and makers; and the Pantry with its range of food and drink produce.

Terms & conditions: Free entry voucher is for two adults to The Sculpture Park at Sculpture by the Lakes, subject to availability, from January 3 until February 29, 2024. One voucher per pair, no photocopies of this voucher will be accepted. The voucher has no cash value and cannot be used more than once. Well behaved dogs on leads are welcome around the lakes, but not in the kitchen garden. No children under 14 (including babies).


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