First There is a Mountain at Studland Bay

This summer the National Trust is participating in Katie Paterson’s national artwork ‘First there is a Mountain’.

The artwork will tour twenty-five high profile coastal art venues around the UK, who will each stage a sand pail building event on their local beach.

This artwork will be at Studland Bay on Sunday 15 September and you are invited to help sculpt Shell Bay beach into thousands of mountains of sand to form micro-geologies.

Shell Bay is off Ferry Road near the Sandbanks to Studland chain ferry. There is parking available and it can be accessed via Ferry Road from Swanage or via the chain ferry itself. 

One of the key concepts of this artwork is to invite you to slow down and consider the interconnectedness of the world, from shifting coastlines across millennia, to our own changing coastline.

Fifty sets of buckets and spades will be available to use on the day. The ‘buckets’ are specially created hollow scale models of five of the world’s most famous mountains: Mount Kilimanjaro (Africa), Mount Shasta (North America), Mount Fuji (Asia), Stromboli (Europe), and Uluru (Oceania).

Twenty five writers have been invited to write a text, one for each location of the tour. Katie Paterson has invited author and natural navigator Tristan Gooley to write the text for Studland Bay, which will be read aloud on the day.

Tristan set up his natural navigation school in 2008 and is the author of The Natural Navigator, The Walker’s Guide to Outdoor Clues & Signs, How to Read Water and Wild Signs and Star Paths.

How to take part

There are three ways to get involved:

  1. Be a part of keeping Studland Bay special by becoming a volunteer (contact Rachel Rodman on

  2. Take part in building the mountain ranges as a participant, all ages and abilities welcome! Turn up at any time between 11am and 3pm to join in.

  3. As a viewer – come and watch Shell Bay beach transform into a mountain range and watch as the tide carries the mountains into the sea at the end of the day.

If you would like to follow this artwork as it travels around the country keep up to date via the First There is a Mountain project website.

First There is a Mountain is supported by the National Lottery through Creative Scotland and Arts Council England.