This week a dear friend introduced me to Simon Jenkin’s book England’s Thousand Best Churches. She did this shortly after I had introduced her to one of the gems of the Roseland Peninsular, the thirteenth century church at St Just in Roseland. I am particularly fond of this church and so it is one of the places which, when showing visitors for the first time, I take great care to approach from the right direction. We walked out along the Bar, a spit of shingle which reaches across the creek, so that she could see the church across the water. She was appropriately impressed. A series of ‘wow’s and other appreciative sounds confirmed this. Later we walked round and into the church. It is a beautiful and interesting place full of peace and history. Its creek-side setting and semi-tropical gardens are the icing on the cake.
I was astonished that Jenkins only gives St Just one star and have resolved to explore some of the Cornish churches to which he awards 4 stars in order to compare and contrast. Turning to the page for the Roseland churches I was shocked. None of them merit more than one star and Jenkin’s summary of the Roseland is ‘A secret annex which might just as well be called Going Nowhere!’ I would like to add to that, please, Mr Jenkins.
The Roseland is steeped in history and tales of daring do; its coast is rugged and yet gentle at the same time; its geology is fascinating; its villages have their hearts in tact because they still have sufficiently large residential populations, having been blighted slightly less than some parts of Cornwall by people who own houses but only use them for a few weeks a year. I could go on and on but, given that one of its charms is that people leave it alone to some extent, I won’t tempt them!
Having given Jenkin’s remarks some time to filter through my tatty brain I appreciate their accuracy. Geography makes his comments completely accurate. Apart from a couple of ferries there is literally one road in and one road out.
You don’t come to the Roseland unless you meant to – and I meant to! It gives me a sense of well being. It is my playground. It inspires my work and I am truly glad that I now have the opportunity to live and work here.
I have been suffering a considerable level of Pot Anxiety in recent weeks. This is the state of stress which keeps ceramicists from their beds in the middle of the night because an idea hits or a problem resolution crystallises. At which point there is nothing to be done except to get up – sleep will elude you until the offending thought has been dealt with. The current bout of trouble stems from having rather a lot on and some difficulty knowing how to get 4 firings through the kiln before I head up to London in preparation for the exhibition at The Fountain Gallery which starts on 16th of this month.
At 4:00 in the morning there are few cars on the roads in Cornwall and, as I drove the couple of miles to my current studio to swap pots and glaze things in the dark, I really felt that the world belonged to me alone.
On the return journey I tuned into BBC Radio 4 and discovered that I had woken early on the perfect day. It was International Dawn Chorus day! The song birds that the BBC was recording were fantastic but imagine my confusion when I stopped the car, turned off the engine, got out and still the music played! The birds of Cornwall were all up and about and heralding the morning with gusto.
I could have gone back to bed but that would have been a crime against nature. Instead I brewed a mug of tea, pushed my feet into my walking boots and set off through the woods to the little stone quay at the bottom of the hill. Through the woods the pale green canopy was still not fully out and the path was fringed with blue bells, red campion, wild garlic and with a late narcissus and an early foxglove or two completing the spectrum. The birds were giving it everything they had got – it was truly magnificent.
By the time I reached the water’s edge the tide was just beginning to ebb – sucking at the stones on the slip way as it crept back out to sea. The surface of the river was as flat as a mill pond. You couldn’t really make out the colours because the light was so gentle but I could see a couple of small boats hunched over their moorings and, in the houses opposite, there was not a single sign of life.
The chorus was diminishing now as the song birds all went off in search of their breakfast but the rooks and the oyster catchers were in full swing, it was a beautiful morning and a joy to be alive. I tried to record the sounds but technology defeated me and anyway, I was being far to self indulgent to try for long so here is the BBC podcast from early on International Dawn Chorus Day. If you don’t have the patience to listen to the whole thing I commend the last twenty minutes to you. You will not regret it!