New Milestones

Common Ground’s New Milestones project in Dorset during the late 1980s encouraged a new generation of town, village and countryside sculptures.

Between 1986 and 1988 Common Ground helped communities in Dorset commission new sculptures for the local landscape. These artworks included ‘Turning Point’ at Godmanstone by Christine Angus, ‘Entrance’ by Andy Goldsworthy at Hooke Park, ‘Chiswell Earthworks’ by John Maine on Portland, ‘Wayside Carvings’ by Peter Randall-Page near Lulworth Cove and ‘Grains of Wheat’ on the Weld Estate by Simon Thomas. Two more were commissioned later in Cleveland, one by Alain Ayers (‘Masham Leaves’) and the other by Richard Farrington (‘Huntcliff’, after a residency at the Skinningrove Steel Mill) and one more in Somerset by Michael Fairfax (‘Riverside Sculptures’ at Waterrow).

New Milestones aimed to stimulate the creation of small scale works of the imagination which express our sense of history, our love of place and of the natural world. It involved people in commissioning sculptors and craftspeople to help celebrate their place, with sculptures which will be valued and enduring features in the present and future life of the whole community.

Anyone can initiate the commissioning of a sculpture. The first move could come from a parish council, a local history or environmental groups, a primary school, landholders or farmers.

The commonplace and familiar aspects of local surroundings are often overlooked or taken for granted – but have great emotional value for the people who know them well. By recognising and sharing their feelings about their place, communities begin to take an active part in caring for their locality.

Listen to a BBC Radio 4 documentary about Common Ground’s New Milestone project.

Turning Point

Manor Farm, Godmanstone, by Christine Argus
Turning Point was commissioned by farmers Will and Pam Best in 1987 when they were actively engaged in changing to organic farming methods. Christine commented at the time of the proposal: “As the 23 young trees in the clearing develop into a small copse, the feeling and space of the site will change considerably. This meant taking on the element of time and change as a positive aspect of the sculpture. The three sculptures are not carvings reflecting specific objects; their function is to draw attention to what is happening around them, both physically and in time.” The works were completed in May 1988.

Hooke Park Wood, by Andy Goldsworthy
John Makepeace, furniture maker and Director of the Parnham Trust worked with Common Ground to commission a sculpture marking the new entrance into the Working Woodland at Hooke Park Wood. The economic viability of this woodland as a renewable resource managed in the traditional manner was being re-established. Part of the artist’s brief was that materials from the wood should be used for the sculpture. Andy Goldsworthy was chosen for the commission for his delicate handling and understanding of natural materials, his proven ability to make large, permanent works and the philosophical concord between himself, Common Ground and the Working Woodland. Construction took place over four weeks in July 1986, Andy working with students Lynette Charters, John Ogdon, Samantha Rudd and Justin Underhill.

Chiswell Earthworks
Chiswell, by John Maine
Chiswell Earthworks on the isle of Portland, began life with a suggestion that a sculpture be made to mark the installation of sea defenses in 1986. Margaret Somerville, owner of the Chesil Gallery, worked with Common Ground to offer a sculptor’s residency during 1987.
John Maine emerged as an obvious choice for a work on Portland, having worked in the quarries there for over 20 years and forged close friendships among the island’s craftsmen. Construction, using local materials, continued throughout 1988, John working with local students, volunteers and a Community Programme team.

Grains of Wheat
West Lulworth, by Simon Thomas
Simon Thomas worked on the Weld Estate at Lulworth from July 1985. He said “The open grandeur of the area called me not to try and contend with it, but to make something which was on a human scale, something of an intimate nature within this very open space.”
The bridleway along which the sculptures were to be placed lay between modern intensively cultivated grainfields and a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), one of the earliest recorded sites for grain cropping in Britain. This detail inspired Simon to make four enlarged wooden grains of wheat to underline the 4000 year history of cultivation in the area. They were carved from a wind-blown oak tree and were put in place on the coastal downlands above Bat’s Head in June 1986.