Community spirit thrives in pretty Cornish village
On the Northwestern edge of the high rocky scrubland of Bodmin Moor lies Blisland, a beautiful Cornish village set around a village green. Several fine stone buildings line the green, their patterned grey blocks showing off the masonry of the native granite that is quarried nearby. It is not just its unusual green that sets this village apart: for such a small place, it has an amazing range of facilities: a community-run shop, an eco-friendly village hall, and one of the most beautiful churches in Cornwall.
Residents say that it's the community spirit that shows off the best of Blisland.
"It does have a really nice feel," said Anna Parnell, who chairs the Blisland Community Association (BCA) – I found her busy in the shop. "I like it and so do my kids. It's unique living in Blisland – and it's a very welcoming place.
"I like being able to send my kids out to play on the green and knowing they'll be fine, and have a bit of independence."
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The BCA runs the Glebe, a gathering place for the village and also a hub of local support. A model of community cooperation, it has a post office, shop, café, and internet service. It also has business units that are let out to local businesses.
The Glebe hosts a weekly doctor's surgery, a three-weekly chiropodist's clinic, and acupuncture sessions. There is also a manicurist on Fridays and Saturdays.
"The community really got behind the shop," said Anna. "We have lots of local stockists – people bring their fruit and veg that they grow down here, and buy it also.
"We carry products from Henry Jo's Smoke House, Beast in the Barn chutneys, pickles and jams, Henry's Honey, Morwenna Herb Bags – those are all made by people in Blisland."
Among other local produce is Roskilly's Ice cream and fudge, Kittows sausages, and drinks from Camel Valley vineyards.
The café serves hot drinks and a range of food for lunch (naturally I had to buy a steak and stilton pasty – they smelled too good to resist).
You can definitely eat well in Blisland, and you can drink well, too. The Blisland Inn holds an award from the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), for its massive selection of real ale – in 19 years, owners Gary and Margaret Marshall have served more than 3,000 different quaffs.
"My husband is a fanatic," said Margaret. "The inside of the pub is covered with the labels from all the different real ales. They're from all over – and real ale fans will come from all over to try them, even internationally.
"They're full of flavour, and not so gassy as the bitters, and they're traditionally British – it's good to keep the traditions alive."
The inn features a different ale each night; it also holds quizzes every Wednesday and live music most Saturdays. May is the month of mild, another British traditional favourite which has lapsed in popularity – in Blisland, they're keeping it alive.
John Betjeman, who waxed prolifically about various historical spots in Cornwall, was deeply moved by Blisland church: "this holy and peaceful place…can hardly be bettered in the kingdom," he said. It is mainly Norman with some later medieval work, and is dedicated to the saints Hyacinth and Protus.
There is a celestial quality when you walk into this small-ish building, white with wooden beams, and an ornate rood screen topped with gold-leafed figures of angels and a crowning crucifix.
It is beautifully preserved, and well looked after by its congregation. The Christingle service on Christmas eve is usually standing room only.
There's lots more to talk about – the Blisland Blisters walking group, the monthly produce and craft market, the garden club, the upcoming harvest festival and theatrical productions in the village hall.
The best thing, really, is to go there and check them out yourself.
See more about Blisland on their community website, www. blisland.com.