WITH sweeping views of fields and meadows, hedgerows and wildflowers, an exhibition of paintings going on show this weekend may appear to be just another display of local art.

But while the pictures of Oxfordshire rural life are beautiful, the show has a serious message – one which the artists insist could see the destruction of the very scenes on show.

The Forever Fields Project Team Open Art Exhibition is a celebration of the countryside that could be lost under solar panels if plans for the massive Botley West solar farm are built.

The show at Worton Hall, near Cassington, this Saturday and Sunday (November 25-26) features dozens of pictures, photographs and other works by local artists concerned about losing the very landscapes they love to a development which they say will eat up 3,400 acres of fields – equivalent to 2,571 football pitches or five square miles.

“It became important to capture images and feelings about these fields before they were lost to the solar panels and to create an archive of all the material generated,” organisers said.

“This would mean that, if this behemoth of a project is given the go ahead, that the developer (PVDP) and the Blenheim Estate, cannot try to avoid the responsibility to restore fields back to how they are now in 40 years’ time.

“The Forever Fields project was also designed to enable to the affected individuals and communities to express our feelings about the scale of the threat we are all facing.

Oxford Mail: Towards Farmoor by Jessica ParkerTowards Farmoor by Jessica Parker

Over the last few months, artists have submitted work to illustrate their love for the meadows and fields that will be lost.

Artists, young and old – ranging in age from three to 90 – include novice, amateur and professional artists who have submitted watercolours, acrylics and oils, but also photography, sculpture, poetry, music and embroidery.

It also includes an immersive film ‘Pause Summer’ by Charlotte Holmes.

A willow coppice sculpture is being created specifically as a focal piece for the exhibition by Andy Goodwin

The result is an evocative body of work that provides a tangible expression of the community’s emotions and fear for what could be lost.

After this weekend’s exhibition, the work will form an archive of the landscape as a record for future generations.

Oxford Mail: Cumnor Churchyard, Barbara PayneCumnor Churchyard, Barbara Payne

Anthony Thompson, a driving force behind the project, says: “Forever Fields is reflecting how the community feels about the prospect of losing huge swathes of green countryside on its doorstep.

“The impact on mental health, amenity and community will be devastating. It shows how as human beings we need to be able to walk and breathe within green space. The importance to our health and wellbeing cannot be underestimated.

“The developer has not explained that the reality is that it will remove almost all the green space available in the parishes concerned. For example, in the parish of Hanborough, Botley West represents almost 30 per cent of all the space in the parish.

Oxford Mail: Kate Rogers - view of Purwell Lane, CassingtonKate Rogers - view of Purwell Lane, Cassington

“Green Belt in particular should not be sacrificed in this way when there are clear alternatives. This project would set a terrible precedent for all the UK. It is disingenuous for the developer to say that this proposal will benefit the local community. Botley West is not a Community Solar Farm. It is a Utility Scale Power Station. It is the wrong proposal in the wrong place at the wrong time for the wrong reasons.

“Blenheim should pull the plans.”

Artist Henrietta Batchelor said: “I painted a field just south of Bladon, which will be covered in solar panels if the Botley West project goes ahead.

“I was cycling by early on May morning and thought the view of hawthorn bushes covered in blossom, and the field beyond with growing wheat, would be gone forever if the project goes ahead.”

Alice Walker, who has opened Mill Street Arts in Eynsham, contributed a painting which depicts one of the Wharf Stream Meadows near Eynsham Lock.

She says: “I wanted to show the beautiful biodiversity of plants and the delicate balance of the ecosystem which will be jeopardised and lost if it is dug up and replanted with solar panels.

“There is no research evidence to show that solar farms are a win for biodiversity. Like many others I walk daily in this area; the act of being out in nature connects me to the planet and to myself. We can use this awareness to guide our actions, to avoid further harm and instead work in harmony with the ecosystem.”

Oxford Mail: Hannah FarncombeWildflowers by Hannah Farncombe

Barbara Payne from Cumnor painted the village churchyard. It was there she learned to ring the church bells across acres of beautiful woods, farmland and reservoir.

“If Botley West goes ahead, the church will instead overlook a power substation the size of five football pitches and the great swathe of the southern section of the solar farm, all fenced off from people and animals,” she says.

“It’s not just fields that are affected by the threat of a giant power station. It’s villages and the heritage of communities.”

Hannah Farncombe painted a summer grass field at Denmans Farm, Cumnor. She said: “The intensity of nature’s colour in the evening sun after a day of thundery rain will be lost under black glass and metal.

Oxford Mail: View by Ruth AtherstoneView by Ruth Atherstone

“This is a community project, and our exhibition shows how strongly people in the people feel about the power station being built here, the loss of access to walks in the green fields and meadows around us, and the impact on our mental health.”

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Developers PVDP and the Blenheim Estate, on which the solar farm will be partly built have defended the Botley West scheme. A Blenheim spokesman said: “The merits of this proposal remain clear and the case for us all to increase the number of sustainable energy initiatives is only getting stronger.”

PVDP said: “We remain committed to developing a scheme that could deliver approximately 840MW of renewable energy and make a significant contribution towards delivering energy security for the UK and achieving Net Zero targets.”

  • Forever Fields is at Worton Hall, Worton Park, near Cassington.
  • The show runs this weekend only, on Saturday, November 25 (10.30am-7pm) and Sunday, November 26 (10.30am-4pm).
  •  There will be programme of poetry readings and with music throughout the weekend with a performance from Mandolirium. 
  • The cafe at Worton Organic Garden will be open throughout the exhibition for refreshments, including dinner on Saturday.