When our kids were younger, we would occasionally go up to Grizedale and take a walk around the short trail up there. Before it became all poshed-up and preened, the visitor centre had a car park which was impossible to find space in and had a very tight turning area at the end, resulting in huge stress for the driver before the walk had even started! The Kennels car park was an overflow area but we’d fight our way round the main car park first. The centre had an imaginative play area with slides in huge animals, spiders web rope ladders and caterpillar stepping stones and the walk itself was wonderful for kids, with lots to look at. It would take some time to get them past the spiral walls, the stream, the large wooden musical instruments.
A year or two ago, I took my brother, his wife and their two small children around the same walk. While much had disappeared, it was still fun, with new things to see. At the time, there were guys installing strange things in the trees at the start of the trail which they said were clockwork and would make music that reacted with its surroundings. It sounded quite interesting.
This year, I took my sister and her small children. It was embarrasing. The clockwork keys were impossible for small children to turn and very hard work for adults. It took quite an effort to get to the result, the music, which turned out to be a sort of Forest Muzak. There are several keys in several trees but only a couple of different tunes and they certainly don’t interact. I suspect the kids wondered why it was necessary to have lift music in trees. They very quickly worked out where the music came from and then got bored. No discovery, no enjoyment and a huge opportunity missed. Unfortunately, most of the clockwork mechanisms no longer work, rendering the keys even less worthwhile – though in some ways, a silent turning key is better than one that produces naff twinkly tunes.
Even more unfortunately, the keys appear to have taken over, as if it was no longer necessary to provide anything else of interest for visitors. The paths have been freshly surfaced with tarmac and it all looks very nice but without the sculptures that provided humour and interest, the place is sterile.
There is an A board at the start of the Keys that explains all about the “project”, how it involved local schoolchildren (grinning faces on photos peer out through the mould now growing on the sign) and how it enhances and interacts with the forest. This is Art at its Artiest, ticking grant boxes (community involvement and all that) but not worth the A board it’s written on, even with the mould. There are so many interesting, skilled and thought provoking sculptures in Grizedale – it is a big pity that its most accessible trail is now so far removed from them.