What I have to share with you today, I am almost tempted to just do with pictures. Because I am so in love with my new discovery in Goodwood, West Sussex, I almost feel that words can’t do it justice. But this is me, Ms. Little Lewes, and if you’re a regular reader, you’ll know by now that I can’t not give you just a few details. I’ll try to keep it short though. Try…
Just three days after we stepped off a long-haul flight from our summer holiday, I put my poor boys in the car for what was meant to be an hour-long journey into deepest West Sussex (it took two – I had no SatNav and no phone, and we got hideously, heart-poundingly lost), to meet a friend I haven’t seen in over eight years. The chance to finally meet each other’s kids just could not be missed, despite the rotten timing vis-à-vis our arrival home and theirs in the UK (they live in the Far East). As she was staying in Salisbury, I was tasked with finding something sort of equidistant to our two spots.
After a bit of a search for places near – but not in – Chichester, I came across the Cass Sculpture Foundation, which called up a distant memory of a reader suggesting it for my list when I first started this blog.
The Cass Sculpture Foundation is both quietly and epically special. It was founded in 1992 by Wilfred Cass CBE – now in his nineties and the subject of a biography, ‘Here Comes Mr. Cass’, the opening page of which suggests him to be a distinctly wonderful person – and his wife, Jeanette.
They wanted to support sculptors, while allowing the public to explore and experience large-scale works in a natural setting. The Foundation consists of a blocky (but in my opinion beautiful) modernist entrance gallery and shop, and 26-acre grounds, most of it woodland. It has hosted over 400 large-scale sculptures since it began, with the works all for sale and proceeds divided 50/50 between the artists and the Foundation, allowing each to further its work.
Split into four ‘routes’ (which we didn’t really follow, as the children darted off to explore whatever forms peeped at them through the trees), there are fairly natural paths from one work to the next, often pointed out by crazy bendy yellow arrows.
The Foundation represents a perfect blend of culture, intrigue and natural play for kids – my eldest was so comfortable here that he kicked off his shoes and ran barefoot through the trees. For adults it’s a chance to see inspiring art without a hushed museum environment (and to have a conversation), and is extremely peaceful. The few other visitors we came across seemed impressed and pleased we’d brought our children here, thinking it a fascinating way for them to spend a day (despite it being the summer hols, we were the only visitors with kids).
Two important points to make only – no, three:
1) There is no café here, so you need to bring your own picnic and snacks. There is a fridge of small bottles of water (£1 each), fruit drinks and Freddos for the kids at the front desk, and an honesty system for help-yourself cups of tea and coffee (50p).
There is also a picnic grove in a far corner of the Foundation’s grounds, itself a sculpture by David Brooks of fused pub benches and tables called… ‘Picnic Grove’.
2) The Foundation asks that children do not climb on the sculptures, and we really really tried to make ours understand this. As you can see from the pictures, we were not always successful, and with all four children fried with jet lag, and the littler two going without naps that day, there were some super enjoyable (not) meltdowns over the issue.
Addition to post 26.0.14 > Children will want to touch and interact with the sculptures in the only way they know how – by playing with them. I don’t know have a suggestion for how to avoid this, so I would say that because of it, perhaps the Foundation is better for older children. Younger kids (six/seven and under) and toddlers find it hard to resist the intriguing look of each piece, and to understand that this is not a playground. I was mortified when the Cass Foundation gently – and kindly – emailed me on seeing this post to remind me how highly valuable each of the works is, and that if people let their children touch and climb on the sculptures, they of course become liable for any damage to them.
3) Getting here by car is a fairly easy (BUT FOR BETSY’S SAKE PLEASE USE SATNAV). It’s just beyond Littlehampton, which I blogged about earlier this summer, and if you wanted to make a full day of it, you could do Cass in a half-day, and stop at Littlehampton beach, Arundel town with its beautiful castle, or Brighton City Airport at Shoreham (free) on the way there or back.
AA Route Planner calls it an hour (which allows me to include it on the blog!), but I would factor in an extra half hour for the bottleneck at Sompting that I mentioned in the Littlehampton post. This saw us sit in traffic both on the way there and on the way back. It was still worth it.
Drive: 58 minutes
Address: New Barn Hill, Goodwood nr. Chichester, West Sussex, PO18 0QP
Tel no.: 01273 538 449
Open: Spring/summer season (from April), daily 10.30am-4.30pm. The Cass Sculpture Foundation recommends at least two hours to see everything
Price: Adult, £12.50; Children, (5-16), £6.50; Children under five, free; Students and Seniors, £10
Disclosure: I contacted The Cass Sculpture Foundation ahead of our arrival to ask if they would be willing to offer my older son and I complimentary tickets in order for me to write this blog post. At the time I didn’t realise it was a charity! But despite that, they kindly gave us tickets – and my friend 20% off hers. Thank you Cass, we will MOST CERTAINLY be back – paying full price next time!
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