Clues in a new collection of pictures on display in Blickling Hall will prompt a treasure hunt — and lead budding private detectives to a glittering prize. IAN COLLINS reports.

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Every picture tells a story if we can only read it - and the hidden tale in a new exhibition of haunting work by Lizzie Riches in Blickling Hall will launch the eagle-eyed on a treasure trail...

The Cromer artist with a singular line in mysterious, mystical and surreal imagery has based her latest collection of people-centred canvases on the history, flora and fauna of the National Trust-run site near Aylsham.

She has been particularly taken with a saga from the 1820s, when Blickling’s expert gardeners grew a new apple which they named Caroline after Lady Suffield, the estate’s then chatelaine.

The noble Norfolk stock dwindled even faster than the fortunes of the aristocratic family and was deemed a “lost variety” until, nearly 150 years after that first fruiting, a single tree was found near Oxburgh.

Now the search is about to begin for a unique gilded and jewelled Golden Caroline apple.

This wonderful windfall currently rests on a silk cushion within a miniature beehive...

For the artist, Holt’s Red Dot Gallery and professional treasure hunt creator Sam Gething-Lewis have arranged for a series of pointers in selected Blickling pictures to direct a private detective to a glittering prize. Here’s the gist: clues will lead to letters and in turn to an anagram of a person or place or...

Put them all together and you will be led to a fruitwood apple carved by Guestwick’s Philip Taylor and gilded by master frame-makers Richard Parks and Stacey Geary at Sheringham’s Westcliffe Gallery.

And, as the last piece in this prize puzzle, a removable quarter of the wooden sculpture will reveal four pips of faceted black sapphires set by Olly Webb of Holt’s Webbs County Jewellers. Finders keepers.

London-born Lizzie Riches learned her love of trees while growing up near Epping Forest and gained a life-long obsession with Elizabethan portraiture through visits to Audley End and the National Gallery from the age of five.

A “hopeless” art student, she preferred to develop her own style by returning to study the enigmatic paintings she had loved as a child – and while moving to Norfolk and settling in Cromer via a spell in Norwich’s Elm Hill.

Showing with London’s Portal Gallery for the past 35 years, she has also exhibited from Paris to New York and Chicago and her work is now in numerous collections at home and abroad.

Prize carver Philip Taylor is a violin and cello maker with an international clientele, following in a family line for his father made church organs and his grandfather was a piano maker.

As well as string instruments, he also creates beautiful boxes and is now completing a suite inspired by Blickling Hall and kindred structures using wood sourced from the estate.

■ In Search of the Golden Caroline, an exhibition of paintings by Lizzie Riches, is in the Long Gallery of Blickling Hall during July and August.

www.thereddotgallery.com

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