Catch The Flock at Wentworth Woodhouse

A flock of 10,000 birds carrying people’s memories of the Covid-19 spring lockdown has taken over the lawns of the stately home Wentworth Woodhouse in Rotherham, just as it re-opens to the public.

The birds are made of wood and each is a tiny work of art, hand-decorated by toddlers, pensioners in care homes, parents, schoolchildren and key workers.

They make up The Flock, a huge outdoor art installation which thousands are expected to visit during October, as the nation faces escalations in the Covid-19 infection rate.

Heart-felt messages left on them include lyrics by The Beatles and Bob Marley and positive mottos such as ‘Love and light will shine through the dark’ and ‘The first hug of loved ones will always mean the most’.

There are tributes to the NHS and loved ones who died of the virus, and political statements too.

Images range from scenes of Yorkshire to caricatures of the famous.

“The Flock is a piece of social history,” said artist Julie Edwards of Planet Art, who developed the concept with her partner Ron Thompson.

“It records memories from one of the most difficult experiences in modern times. People put their heart and soul into expressing what life was like for them.”

Summer visitors to the mansion’s gardens decorated birds and staff and volunteers from the Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust, which now owns the 18th century site, spent weeks distributing many more.

Over 4,000 children from 17 local schools took part, along with young people engaged with Rotherham United Community Sports Trust. Charities and organisations are represented, including Art Works South Yorkshire, the Sense Centre Rotherham, Social Eyes Rotherham, Age UK Barnsley, literacy project Grimm & Co.

Residents from Jubilee Nursing Home in Greasbrough and Cherry Trees in Kimberworth Park painted birds and even heritage craftsmen and bosses from Woodhead Group, who are tackling £7.6 million of roof repairs at the site, took time to get involved.

Sarah McLeod, CEO of the Trust, said: “We are so proud of The Flock and the overwhelming response from the public.

“It’s a vibrant and creative outpouring of all the emotions people have gone through since the March lockdown – there are happy memories from families who got to spend more time with each other, too.

“We hope visitors will walk through the birds, reflect on the unprecedented times we are living through and the need to continue protecting each other from the virus.”

The Flock launched on Saturday October 3rd, the same day the mansion re-opened to the public after closing in March, and runs throughout the month.

Viewings will be regulated by pre-booked slots and social distancing.

The Flock is one of three installations created by artists appointed by Wakefield-based arts organisation Beam and Wentworth & Elsecar Great Place, a three-year partnership between Barnsley Council, Rotherham Council and Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Arts Council England.

Other installations are planned for Wentworth Castle Gardens and Elsecar Heritage Centre in Barnsley.