Archive for March, 2009

Newby update

Much of the past few weeks have been spent getting to grips with Newby Hall where I am currently artist in residence and finally I feel like I can find my way around a bit and am getting to know who’s who.

The Hall and gardens are currently closed to the public for Winter so I feel its been a great privilege to be able to see the Estate during this time.

Last month, I spent a morning meeting some of the 40-odd staff with the Lucinda Compton, the estate owner. It’s been amusing to hear everyones opinions on who the “characters” working on the Estate are.

Partly because of my personal interest and partly due to the enthusiastic nature of the gardeners, I’ve spent more time in the garden than anywhere else. Gardens during Winter have their own special appeal, and of course work takes place all year round.

The Statue Walk

The Statue Walk

My interest in the work they are doing has been reinforced by Alex one of the gardeners telling me that “the more interesting jobs are in the Winter, the visitors make an nice change from the mundane dead-heading and weeding of the Summer months.”

It’s just over two weeks until “opening” and the final push is taking place to get the house and garden ready. I haven’t been to Newby Hall during usual public opening so I can only imagine how different the atmosphere will be during that time.

But for now, the garden is peaceful except for rustling in bushes or woodpeckers pecking amongst the noise of the chainsaw and hedgecutter. There are 7 gardeners and they all have their special areas. Ian ‘no.2 gardener’s’ domain is the potting shed and greenhouse where he undertakes the jobs of “potting, seed sowing, pricking out of seedlings, and cuttings.”

Last week I set up a studio in the potting shed to photograph all the old tools that were mostly there when he started work at Newby more than 20 years ago and which he describes as “moulded to his own fingers”.

The Potting Shed

The Potting Shed

"Riddle"

"Riddle"

Also in the garden David and his helpers have been putting Royal Scot, the steam train which will be taking visitors to the garden around in style (on Sundays and Bank Holiday Mondays), through its paces.

"Train Dave"

"Train Dave"

I also spent a few hours this week with Gary, the vermin control man known Estate wide as “Gary-the rat”. He mainly works to control moles, rabbits, rats, and squirrels over around 6000 acres of the Estate. Gary’s focus at the moment is on those problem areas around the Estate where the public will wander – the orchard, woodland walk and areas adjoining the garden and the garden itself. I don’t suppose the public would relish the surreal sight of a dead squirrel’s tail sticking out of a wooden box holding a trap! He’s obviously very effective judging by the pile of dead animals in the back of his pick up.

Moles

Moles

“A bit of killing, a bit of mole trapping, a bit of poisoning, checking traps, gassing rabbits and the day soon goes.”

Spring cleaning of the house by Dot and her team has also been progressing. I felt really sorry for them on Friday as two jackdaws had flown down the chimney and s*** everywhere in the Billiard Room where they had already finished cleaning.

Photo to follow soon!
“If you stopped and looked and thought about it you’d be too frightened to do anything as it’s all irreplaceable.”

Having spent the last five years working on a couple of big overseas projects its been really great to be able to communicate directly with the people I am working with and not be relying on the vagaries of translators where you can never be sure quite what has been said and the subtleties can be “lost in translation”.

March 16, 2009 at 10:43 am 3 comments


Welcome to my blog where you can find news about my latest projects, exhibitions and publications. If you would like to see an archive of past work please go to my website

Home Work will be published by Dewi Lewis in July 2010

Cover of Home Work by Tessa Bunney