A small lace swing drifts in the breeze; a crow knitted from black and white wire hovers, wings outstretched, beneath a dark-spread tree; glass fish gleam from the moat.
The grounds and gardens of Mannington Hall, already lush with midsummer flowers and foliage, are alive with art, overflowing from an exhibition room into the parkland, rose garden, ruined chapel and moat of this fairytale-like estate.
The tapestries, figurines, plaques, bowls, sculpture and jewellery, are the creations of members of the Norfolk Contemporary Crafts Society, and unlike in a standard exhibition, have evolved from the landscape they inhabit.
In the heritage rose gardens, hundreds of historic roses are grouped into themed areas, showcasing the plants of periods ranging from medieval to 21st century. Rare roses bloom in blowsy opulence, scenting the air and colouring the walled garden every shade of pink and peach, crimson and gold …
There is an orchard area too, and here Beth Walsh has made a swing out of linen thread. Suspended from an apple tree it is inspired both by the rose gardens and a painting Beth loves. She is a lace-maker, and visited Mannington with the rest of the exhibitors last summer, returning in the winter to choose a tree to hold the lace swing she created as her response to the experience.
“I enjoyed the challenge of making a piece of lace which would be outside all summer,” said Beth, of Sheringham, who began making lace 26 years ago. “I had three young boys and went with them to the library and there was a lady sitting there looking extremely peaceful and self-contained and she was making lace.” Her calmness so appealed to Beth that she learned how to make lace herself and now divides her time between making lace hangings, and researching the painting and sculpture of lace.
Her swing drifts in the breeze, among the flowers and foliage of Mannington’s roses, smaller than real life, fashioned for fairies.