Exciting new centre emerging
ST CLETHER is one of my favourite parishes in North Guardian Country. Green fields and narrow, twisting lanes, tall trees giving shelter from brilliant sunlight, livestock grazing and pigeons flying, the River Inny flowing through it. How our rivers give vitality to the landscape.
I stopped for a few minutes at the church dedicated to Cleder – it's rare to find a parish named after a Saint who actually lived there – and there is a quiet beauty about the setting. The holy well chapel, once the village church, is down in the glorious Inny Valley, owned and cherished by Vanda Inman – a place for recharging the batteries.
The chapel and well head date from the 1400s, restored in the mid-1890s by that remarkable all-rounder the Reverend Sabine Baring-Gould, novelist and hymn writer, folklorist and archaeologist. We can picture him being driven through this countryside and stopping for a glass or two of claret at The King's Head, Five Lanes, where he would have gathered material for his writing, listening to old men telling yarns and speculating about the weather and the crops.
I owe a special debt to this distinguished cleric. It was Sabine Baring-Gould who set me on the supernatural road. Eight of his books, a row in my library, all lighting the imagination.
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Valid until: Saturday, December 21 2013
"Behind the quirkiness, the tall tales, the fine swing and dash of narrative, the energy and the enthusiasm of the born storyteller there is something of greater significance … a rare glimpse into what is still the hidden and inner life of a secret place and people."
That was Dr Charles Causley's verdict and Charles knew all about the nuances of countryside patterns.
My destination on this recent visit to St Clether was Trefranck Farm where the Kempthorne family has lived and worked since 1703, the barn there dating back to the 1200s. This is a dynasty which has made a significant contribution to Guardian Country lifestyle through evolving centuries its people dedicated to the land and their parish.
They have seen the changing faces of landscape, machinery taking over from men and women, farms growing bigger, old buildings becoming redundant. Rosehip Barn has taken on a new way of life. Rosehip means the fruit of the rose, used by herbalists. Though Gemma Kempthorne did not use the words "arts centre", this is its fate and future – it will also be let out for functions and, when suitable, as accommodation. Versatile is the word.
Local children from Altarnun and South Petherwin schools, have been visiting Trefranck, part of a project called, Tally And Tir; Traditions And Stories Of The Land. Gemma, a dancer and actress, is the project manager and we had a three-cornered interview with Sarah Chapman, a Virgoan subject, keen photographer, and a Penzance girl, joining us. She is the programme co-ordinator – one of five in Cornwall. She works for the Institute of Cornish Studies based at Redruth.
An impressive feature of the St Clether project is that the Kempthorne family has been recording their memories of the barn and bringing together an evocative collection of old photographs and maps of the farm. All of which have come together to make a short film which will be screened at Rosehip Barn on Saturday next. For the past six months Gemma and the "Tallys and Tir" team have been working with the two primary schools, exploring farming heritage through dance and art.
Initially the children learned about the history of Rosehip Barn through a short film from the farm cats' perspective. Gemma declares: "The outcome of all this work will be exhibited here on Saturday including a 15ft-wide collage of the barn, a dance film and other creative treats. Families will be able to join in a workshop in the barn at 3pm."
Meeting Gemma and Sarah is a reassuring experience: two gifted young women with a real sense of vocation, their zest infectious. They are positive: good for morale.
In addition to her work at Trefranck, as a dancer, Gemma has been involved in the performance of Terrarium, "a dance performed inside a huge bubble and based on The Four Seasons", as she put it. There have been performances at Trerice Manor near Newquay and at Daymer Bay.
She has also been dancing with Venus Flower and Other Stories at Cotehele House and Trebah Garden, occasions when audiences were invited to take a garden walk led by professional dancers and the legendary 100 Company.
Sarah adds that Luxulyan, another Guardian Country school is also in the overall programme. "We have delivered a range of training to the local groups, including oral history interviewing and interpreting old photographs. This has allowed our members to record stories with people they know in their community and has resulted in some brilliant personal recordings."
The children coming under the influence of these two outward-looking young women are indeed fortunate. I was reminded of the philosophy of great-aunt Mabel Williams, a one-time headmistress in china clay country: "Nothing can influence character like character. You teach, not only by what you say and do, but very largely by what you are."
One eminent person, who would have applauded this 2013 creative form of education, was Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch of Fowey. Q's vast literary achievements inevitably overshadowed his valuable work as a Cornwall councillor. An enthusiastic Liberal, he worked hard for Cornish causes – and education in particular. A man who savoured our history and heritage. His mission was to ensure that every boy or girl had the chance to attend secondary school. Clarity, conciseness and common sense shaped his English style.
This celebration of the countryside – a cause for three cheers – will begin at Trefranck Farm on Saturday at 2pm. Film screenings will be at 4.30pm and 6.30pm. Admission is free and there is disabled-friendly access – and parking is available. The Kempthornes' farm is near the church.
The future of Rosehip Barn is an interesting, even exciting prospect. Such enterprise deserves success.