Northumberlandia, an enormous, startling landscape sculpture in the shape of a reclining woman, is the newest addition to the British park landscape. She is crafted from the leftovers of the largest open-cast mine in the country, Shotton Surface Mine. The privately funded public park lies in Cramlington, just north of Newcastle in the North East of England.
"The Lady of the North" park covers 47 acres, and she is surrounded by four miles of footpaths. The park opened to mixed reaction in early September 2012 at a sunny-day ceremony led by Her Royal Highness Anne, the princess royal (daughter of Queen Elizabeth II). The massive Northumberlandia figure is made from rocks, stone and clay, and walking on it is encouraged. The half-mile long sculpture is 100 feet high — higher than an eight-story building — at the forehead, its tallest point. The park has already hosted musical and artistic events celebrating the regional culture of surrounding Northumberland.
Charles Jencks, an American-born landscape artist, has been working on this project since 2005. Known for his use of grassy spiral mounds, he intended this project and park to develop naturally with the seasons and mature over many generations.
To get to Northumberland by car, take M1 and A1 motorways 290 miles north from central London. Often caught in the middle of battles between England and Scotland, Northumberland has a storied, bloody, troubled past. Locals say that is all the more reason to love it today. Children often visit this northernmost county in England when they study their history curriculum, since this is home to Hadrian's Wall, now a World Heritage Site but once the dividing line between Roman-controlled lands and the untamed world to the north.
If the dramatic coastline, offshore islands, historic small villages, rugged stone walls and castles look familiar, that's because Northumberland is attractive for film productios including "The Railway Man," filmed in May 2012 and starring Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth. Previous shoots include "Billy Elliot," "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone," "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets," "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves," "Mary Queen of Scots," "Elizabeth" and "Women in Love."
Among other local visitor attractions: Bamburgh Castle, home to the ancient kings of Northumbria, Kielder Water and Forest Park, with one of Europe's largest man-made lakes, and pretty Howick Gardens and Arboretum. There are many cozy pubs nearby and, for those who wish to stay longer, charming inns, caravan and campsites and coastal cottages for bed-and-breakfast stays. Coastal Northumberland is a designated area of outstanding natural beauty and a protected area for birds. In fact, many acres of Northumberland, both on the coast and inland, have been set aside as national nature reserves.
Northumberlandia is free of charge and open to walkers every day from dawn to dusk. The use of bicycles is encouraged to the park entrance, but not on the actual sculpture. Dogs on leashes are welcome.
by Laurie Jo Miller Farr
Top: The Northumberlandia landscape sculpture, shown here under construction, opened in September. (Photo by AWhiteC via Wikimedia Commons)
Left: Bamburgh Castle is one of many historic sites around Northumberland (Photo by Britain on View/Visit Britain)