Public garden of wonder created from old Scottish opencast mine heads for next level

From the scarred remains of an old opencast mine, the cosmic landscape emerged.

Now moves are being made to both protect and raise the profile of Crawick Multiverse, near Sanquhar in Dumfries and Galloway – the last completed project of revered land artist Charles Jencks, who died in 2019.

Jencks was commissioned by the Duke of Buccleuch, who owns the land, to transform the charred black site with the public park of wonder now representing the galaxies, the universe and the sun over a series of green spiralling hills, walkways and an amphitheatre.

An application has been made to Historic Environment Scotland to list the site as a designated landscape, not only to protect it for the future, but to help awareness of the place.

The Crawick Multiverse near Sanquhar in Dumfries and Galloway, a public park of wonder created from an old open cast mine and inspired by astronomy and the cosmos. PIC: Contributed/Mike Bolam.

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There are hopes it will become a new Jupiter Artland, the sculpture park near Edinburgh where Jencks’ work can also be found, as well as a “Glastonbury-style” festival site, with a small-scale music event trialled in the summer.

Patrick Lorimer, architect and trustee of Crawick Multiverse, said: “The Crawick Multiverse is unique in Scotland comprising the last completed work by the renowned landscape architect Charles Jencks for the Duke of Buccleuch.

“It is a magnificent piece of landscape architecture, but still relatively unknown. We are really hoping to increase its profile.

Crawick Multiverse: A view over Sun Amphitheatre, Milky Way and Andromeda. The park was created by the celebrated land artist Charles Jencks on land owned by the Duke of Buccleuch. PIC: Ray Cox/Contributed.

"This is still a place blighted by old, disused coal mines, unemployment and social deprivation, so we see this site as having a great value for the area.

"Crawick Multiverse really needs to emerge from relative obscurity. We would like it to become a major visitor attraction like Jupiter Artland and also a music venue, in a Glastonbruy-style way.”

Jencks was commissioned by the Duke of Buccleuch in 2005 to design the landscape and, at first, he described it as “dull ground, rocks … the end of nature”.

But as he studied the site, the view of the industrial wasteland started to fade, with a ready-made meadow, a desert, a gorge and a brook coming into view, with the excess slag from the pit creating a ridge from where views of the surrounding valleys could be taken in.

A bid has been made to list the landscape with Historic Environment Scotland as the Crawick Multiverse gets set to raise its profile. PIC: Ray Cox/Contributed.

In an interview, Jencks described Crawick Multiverse as “the greatest pleasure of my life”.

He added: “Richard Buccleuch, an old friend, had a coal site that ran out of coal. He asked to see what I could do, de-pollute it and reuse things on the site.

"And we started off and we said ‘what are its qualities?’. Well, we found 2,000 boulders on the site.”

The land artist, whose with his wife Maggie Keswick create the breakthrough Maggie’s Centres for cancer care, worked with gardener Alistair Clark on the Crawick Multiverse.

Mr Clark also worked with Jencks at the Garden of Cosmic Speculation at Portrack, where the Jencks made their home.

Boulders left behind by the open cast mining were embodied in the new design, with Mr Clark helping to position them to reflect the story of the cosmos.

Earlier this year, The Coalface, a new central meeting place where visitors can pick up refreshments and information about the site, opened to the public.

The building has just been named a regional finalist in the 2022 Civic Trust Awards.

- The Crawick Multiverse is currently open Thursday to Sunday, from 10am to 3pm

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