Port Eliot by Candlelight

Port Eliot Estate, St Germans Cornwall is one of my favourite places.  It has buckets of history and even more charm. As part of culture24 and museums by night events held all over the country, Port Eliot opened its door to the public to view the house by candlelight and to say it was magical was an understatement.

We have seen the house before in daylight and have been to the annual festival every year but one.  At last nights event it was an absolute delight to wander the grounds on a sunny May evening when it was so still and even better empty.  It made me reflect on what it is about this place that so touches a chord.

For starters the house on the outside is not particularly beautiful, probably due to its lengthy history and little changing over the centuries.  Although the river was diverted from the times of the monastery when Repton developed the landscape around the house, it feels at one with nature and sits in the valley and blends into the fields and backdrop of trees and woods.

The tide was out and the wide estuary of the Lynher sweeps down to meet the Tamar in a small channel exposing  mountains of glistening silvered mud. The sky reflected in the river as it takes its narrow sweep at low tide, but at full tide it can come brimming over the edge and into the fields.

The woods were bathed in a golden glow carpeted with bluebells, dandelion heads ready to blow and the last of the wild garlic. Apart from the untouched and natural, Port Eliot has beautiful gardens too, but they are to the back and up on the hill. It is a large estate!

Another defining feature is that what I would deem to be the front has no grand entrance. The entrance is tucked away on the side, with the drive coming in behind the church. The more sheltered south side of the house has a stunning wisteria which was in full bloom and created a lilac haze as the light faded.

It must have one of the largest churches only metres from the house dating back to the monastery days,   but nothing forboding about it … more a place of sanctuary.

We went to see the interior by candlelight. So what was it like?.. serene, calm, warm and sparkly.  Walking in I half wondered if they had given into health and safety and used battery tea lights, but no; the house was filled with tealights, candelabras and candlesticks galore. If you had gone to see the Joshua Reynold paintings, you might have been disappointed, but the patina of the furniture and the depth of colours in the decor took on a life of their own in the half light which was helped by the glow of burning log fires.  Different quirky things came to light as others were plunged into darkness with a plethera of elephants in all forms everywhere. ( the family emblem).

The round room in particular has to be one of England’s treasures now. As I am writing I hope  you getting the sense of how homely this place is but it’s also filled with history and its own treasures.  Along side objects of history are elements from the current families lives including surfboards, family photos and a harley davidson motorbike full throttle in the round room.

The round room takes your breath away. No one can hide in a corner; everyone faces in and the walls envelopes you with its Robert lenkiewitz mural. In parts not finished as he died, but painted over 30 years it is incredible in its detail and luminosity of painting which is helped by the biggest sparkling chandelier in the centre of the room.

I have tried to put into words how this place makes you feel.  I think my judgement is slightly informed by the family that live there; friendly, unassuming and creative .  You have to go and visit to see for yourself.

Some of my images would not translate from my iphone to the blog. Grrr!;  but you can view the full image gallery on my facebook page here.

A Winter’s Sojourn

I love to go to West Penwith, the area between St Ives, Lands End and Penzance.  The coast has spectacular light and the colour of the sea is mesmerizing, but I also like the largely unchanged landscape of the lanes and moorland areas . With the backdrop of the ocean the colours of this whole area literally sing whatever the weather and whatever the season.

A short break in January was the perfect time to go. It was quiet and although chilly, there’s nothing better than wrapping up in layers and walking, followed by with a hot chocolate at ‘The Dog and Rabbit’ cafe in St Just.

We splurged out on a hotel break as a xmas present to each other. Going back to a warm hotel, good food and a hot tub was a real treat this time of year with walks on empty beaches.

Famous for it’s light,  it’s what has drawn artists here in their droves.  It shifts by the second and the sea changes colour with it. Totally mesmerising, I can only describe it as complete spectral light. It appears to be reflected from everywhere and I have never seen so many total rainbows and patches of refracted light.

St Ives reflection

Walking into St Ives, Low tide

A perfect break was made even better as fate  seemed to play a part  I can only say that one thing led to another and chance meetings resulted in us bumping into one of my favourite artists and finding a sculpture I knew was in a field nearby.  You could say it ‘made my year so far’ !!

The day started with a walk to Treen Cove near Gurnards Head. An easy walk down a track to the coast where we saw the ruins of Chapel Jane (from ‘yein’ meaning bleak) and joined the coastal path with views north and south and over the stream that tumbled down over the cliff.

After a  pitstop in lively St Just,  we drove down Cot Valley to Porth Nanven, one of the most stunning little valleys with the most unusual rock formations and tumbled boulders on the beach looking out to the brisons.

Onward to see the infamous bronze sculpture.

I cannot reveal the location as we were very lucky to be privy to it but I was some excited and not disappointed. Based on a local mining character, it is in the form of a bronze scarecrow, it’s arms lined with birds.

ronnie

The light on this January day was bright but the sun was low in the sky by mid afternoon so it was a dash up more country lanes and over the highest point on West Penwith, where we found the small car park and directions to walk to Carn Euny,  a bronze age settlement of great archeological importance with a fully intact Fogou; a cornish underground chamber dating back 2,500 years.

The day ended with a swim, sauna and hot tub followed by a gin and tonic and dinner (what luxury)..a good nights sleep and the day home, with a visit to Godrevy and  seal watching.

So, if you catch it right, don your walking boots, wrap up warm you can have the best time in Cornwall in January; a perfect time for a break.

Cruel and curious a major part of my artistic journey.

Cruel and Curious, the concept and vision of Cai Waggett of Hickory Nines, and lucky for me just up the road has just had it’s third show, ‘Hinterland’. Held in the barns at Stowe Barton, a medieval farmstead owned by the National Trust adds an instant air of mystery, but it is more about the camaraderie; a band of people that together with the  artists have created such a special event that is more about experience and atmosphere than a selling or commercial stage.

It’s beauty lies in the undiscovered; the knowledge that there is so much more; and  that the depth of creativity  is bottomless. The show  held over two days at the end of September has had exposure but remains a somewhat elusive event that you have stumbled across and feels very special and almost humbling.

The huge walls and lofty barns give shelter from the Atlantic coast; the smell of rum fuelled coffee, music and the magic of film projected onto the old stone walls makes for a laid back unpretentious atmosphere as artists mix with friends, family and make new acquaintances, bringing their own unique take on the theme in individual spaces side by side.

On a personal level, the artistic journey with cruel and curious over the past three years has been influencial  to say the least. It has been a time of experimentation, fresh materials and endless ideas with enthusiasm that knows no end.

The first year was about finding my feet with a mix of paintings and 3D work using mermaid purses in light boxes. Last year still going with the sea theme, ideas were driven by the huge Altantic storms of the winter which gave me endless pieces of driftwood including broken beach huts and loose pieces of ancient petrified forest that I mixed with resins and painted over.

This year the theme of Hinterland, with the valleys, the trees, impressions of the land behind inspired a direction of total contrast and I used aluminium panels to apply paint. The image of a caravan overgrown in a hedge sparked the idea of ‘Home’.

Most of my work is focused on the coast. It’s where I’m drawn, always to the sea, but when I go inland I love the pure feeling of nature which feels it still has the upper hand and not us, where people are living in harmony with it.  This is their secret to a simple life and they do not always need to find a home in bricks and mortar.

The time of day when you feel this harmony most is at sunrise and sunset or dimity as the light fades.  The wind stills and your other senses are more heightened as you are aware of smells and sounds and not just sights. Another year done, it is one of the highlights of the year and is a meeting place for some of the area’s more enlightened characters.

 

Next year’s theme is a secret, but lets just say I’m already planning and without wishing to wile time away, can’t wait.

Bottle top update 

Annie and I trundled down to Rame Head near Torpoint on the 11th April and spent the afternoon trailing down the cliff side with  250 other people carrying 1 km of bottle top chain. It far exceeded Claire Wallerstein’s estimate and was no mean feat getting down a very long steep path and laid out onto the beach. a very rewarding afternoon and great to be a little part of history in the making. 

   
     

Using Beach Rubbish to send a message to London

I had no idea bottle tops were such a beach pollution problem.  We have been picking them up as general plastic at the beach cleans for some time, but it wasn’t until we started seperating them, you realise the number there are and what a problem it is and of course the issue of where are the associated bottles.

 

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Rame Peninsular Beach Care have had a campaign running for a while collecting the tops and threading them onto wire lengths which will all be joined together and taken to London to demonstrate the issue of beach pollution from discarded plastics and plastics washed into rivers.

The aim is to have influence on the Defra consultation on the Marine Strategy Framework Directive which will be the government’s response to the EU on how it plans to achieve good marine environmental status by 2020 with one of the indicators being marine rubbish.

There was a shout out for more bottle tops a few weeks ago and rather than send them down loose, a friend organised a coffee morning where we could chat, drill and thread the bottle tops.

In all we made 12 x 2 metre lengths, which made perfect beach bunting which will be going off to join the other approx 240 m of chain bottle tops they already have.

We are hoping that after their jaunt to the big smoke, they will come to Bude in June, to be shown at the ‘Its Not Rubbish Art Show’