With orchards and hop vines filling the fields, Kent is known as the garden of England. But there are also significant pockets of forested land across the county, which is located in the southeastern corner of Britain. One of these areas is King’s Wood, which has stood since before Roman times. A largish forest by English standards, it stretches across a long hilly outcrop north of the town of Ashford.
Since 1995, King’s Wood has been the base for Stour Valley Arts, an independent arts organization working alongside the Forestry Commission to remake and partially transform the woodland into an outdoor art and sculpture center. Some of the country’s leading rural-minded artists have undertaken influential and career-shaping residencies in King’s Wood, each responding individually to the forest. Among the first was Chris Drury, who created one of his early “Camera Obscuras.” Since then, the likes of Susan Derges and Hamish Fulton, as well as Dominique Bailly and Lukasz Skapski from mainland Europe have all passed through. Unlike other British woodland sculpture trails and parks, Stour Valley Arts’s aim is not sculptural in itself. Founder Sandra Drew emphasizes the sense of place inspired by King’s Wood as common ground for artistic practice, even if, not surprisingly, much of the work is necessarily sculptural.