Anita Bowerman art installation at Castle Howard aims to help raise funds for Yorkshire Cancer Research
PUBLISHED: 17:43 16 July 2020 | UPDATED: 21:14 27 July 2020
Simon Dewhurst Photo Ltd
Castle Howard’s owner is marking Yorkshire Day with a fundraising message from the heart
The months of lockdown have been strange for the majority of us: we’ve seen fewer people, been to fewer places and become used to a quieter life lived at a slower pace. But for the Hon Nicholas Howard, who is accustomed to welcoming a quarter of a million visitors to his home, Castle Howard, every year, that strangeness has been magnified.
‘I’ve been here with just my wife, my daughter and her boyfriend,’ he says. ‘It was extraordinary coming out and seeing absolutely no one here. Most of the staff were on furlough, though the gardening team kept working, otherwise the place would have gone to rack and ruin. There was something slightly pathetic about watching the lawns being mown and the beds being tended, all for no one.’
With the gradual easing of lockdown, though, Castle Howard is tentatively unfurling. There are little children running round the grounds once more, dogs snuffling at rose bushes, takeaway coffees being consumed (ah, the simple pleasure of a hot drink you haven’t made yourself) and visits to the garden centre and farm shop are in full swing.
Among the action in the grounds is a new installation by local artist Anita Bowerman. Created in conjunction with Yorkshire Cancer Research, it takes the form of 191 steel wellington boots hanging from a tree on the South Front, each representing 1,000 Yorkshire people who have fought cancer over the past 25 years. It is part of the charity’s ‘Give It Some Welly’ campaign, which is asking people to fundraise in the run-up to Yorkshire Day on August 1.
‘Yorkshire Day is a great focus,’ says Nicholas. ‘Castle Howard is so much a part of Ryedale, which is so much a part of Yorkshire. We always fly the Rose on Yorkshire Day. So many of these ‘days’ are, let’s face it, invented by PR companies. Every day is something, it’s probably Rice Pudding Day today, but Yorkshire Day really does have a point, because Yorkshire people are so rightly proud of their county.’
And Yorkshire Cancer Research is a charity of particular importance to Nicholas. ‘I was diagnosed with prostate cancer two or so years ago, and ever since then I’ve been proselytising about men getting a prostate specific antigen test, which can diagnose prostate problems, as regularly as possible,’ he says. ‘I realised just how important early diagnosis can be. Cancer, of any kind, becomes much more serious if you catch it later. I was lucky to catch it early. I am still having hormone therapy, but it is all looking like good news.’
No self-respecting Yorkshireman would be without his wellies (particularly as, following the glorious sunshine of early lockdown, the week leading up to the launch of the artwork has been something of a washout). ‘I do wear wellies myself, when the weather requires it,’ says Nicholas. ‘I have a rather lovely pair made by a Scandinavian bloke called Stutterheim – they are sort of welly-cum-Chelsea boot. I’m afraid they’re in a rather scraggy cupboard by the back door as, unfortunately, the boot room, as was, was in the burnt out bit of the house.’
Looking to the future, Nicholas is keen to continue working with Yorkshire Cancer Research, along with Yorkshire Wildlife Trust.
‘We need to raise awareness of the diminishing of our wildlife,’ he says. ‘We’ve got a lot of endangered species in this country and we need to do something about it. There are a lot of house martins, swallows and swifts that come here every year from thousands of miles away.
‘It’s a lovely moment when they appear, and it just happened to be during lockdown this year, so I could just sit and watch them. We also took the decision to let some areas of grass grow, which has been hugely successful. ‘Wildlife has been coming closer and closer to the house and it’s rather wonderful watching the peacocks peering over the top. Though it has been strange not to see people.
‘We need our visitors to keep the place going and we’re looking at experimental ways to make the reopening of the house possible. It’s all about controlling the flow. We’re having to reinvent the wheel every day.’