During my short time in Cornwall I have become increasingly aware that in this narrow land mass reside some remarkable people who achieve extraordinary outcomes.
The first such person I would like to introduce you to is Pip Richards pictured below with her grandchildren in Crenver Grove.
Cornwall’s landscape is diverse and often wild, yet with it’s own unique beauty. The woodlands that once covered this land are now rare. Thirty-two years ago when Pip Richards found a property to settle and raise a family, the surrounding woods were of key significance.
Most of these areas in Cornwall were planted and maintained as part of old estates and those surrounding the Gamekeeper’s Cottage (now Keepers Cottage) were part of the Clowance Estate.
Following the two world wars estates became increasingly costly to maintain and Clowance House and its 90 acres, like many other similar properties, was put on the market, subsequently changing ownership several times. Eventually in the 1980’s the property was bought by a Time Share Company and it wasn’t long before 10 acres of mature woodland visible from Pip’s cottage were felled to make way for chalets.
It was much later in 1990 that Pip first became aware that 75 acres to the south of the estate, including Fox Grove in the valley with the river Hayle running through and Crenver Grove beyond, were under threat. By now the total woodland cover in Cornwall had fallen to a mere 4% and Fox Grove with its 40 acres was possibly the largest southern-most stand of natural woodland in the country. Several other estates still had substantial woodlands but Fox Grove with its river and difficult access lay undisturbed and unique. Scarce ecosystems were at risk.
After some detective work at Companies House, Pip deduced the arable land between the estate and the threatened woodland, had been bought by an Irish Insurance Company, the Directors names she recognized as being connected to the Time Share Company.
Realizing something was afoot and not prepared to watch her beloved woodland disappear for a proposed golf course and further chalets, Pip put in a bid of £70,000, which was accepted. Fortunately The Dandelion Trust, acknowledging the importance of the project, agreed to back the offer. Fund raising then went on in earnest, including a concert at The Hackney Empire and by the end of the year, the money was in place and the woodland secure.
During the course of the purchase, the Cornwall Biological Unit came out to check the flora and fauna in Fox Grove. To the delight of everyone they saw an otter, an event picked up by both The Times and Daily Mail and publicised on ‘Spotlight’.
To protect this special habitat, it was decided to restrict public access to Crenver Grove, with just weekly visits to Fox Grove by volunteers eradicating rhododendrons as potential carriers of Sudden Oak Death (phytophera kernovia) .
Following the purchase the arable land bought by the Insurance Company was resold and is once more farmland.
The Sustainable Trust, a registered charity, was formed in 2001 to manage the woodlands with the help of local volunteers. The first job being to put in a circular seated area for school visits and create a path.
Then grants were obtained to maintain the historic wall that formed part of the boundary. Following further damage to the wall by a stolen car, a grant for a pedestrian gate was acquired and this now provides access for the less able to a level area of woodland. In total three walks have now been created and maintained.
As the canopy is quite dense new trees are planted as and when existing trees are lost.
Activities in Crenver Grove
Woodland activities have been made available to people of all backgrounds, ages and abilities. The Woodcraft Folk (5-11yr olds) meet weekly in the woods as well as two weekends a year and a week in the summer. Forest School events are held with several schools, playgroups, education out of school and disabled teenagers from Truro College. Bodging courses have provided an opportunity for homeless boys from Camborne and National Trust volunteers and employees to come together and learn new skills.
Crenventure in association with Swamp Circus provided an exciting opportunity for children to have lessons on a trapeze in the trees, stilt walking, juggling etc.
The most recent event this autumn was a week-long course to erect a temporary sweet chestnut cruck frame building.
Currently 2,000 shingles are being prepared for the roof, 200 at the latest count, and it is hoped it will be completed by the Spring. The walls are to remain open and the building will provide a space for art classes, workshops, meeting place for local dowsing groups etc.
There is no doubt Crenver Grove is a delightful space, providing somewhere to inspire arts and crafts in a woodland environment as well as a sanctuary for both visitors and the native wildlife. Without Pips’ vision and persistence this would have been yet another native habitat lost forever.
For details of The Sustainable Trust’s activities check out www.sustrust.co.uk you can also follow them on Facebook. Another Sustainable Trust project The Giants Quoit will be featured on Cornwall’s Living Landscape site shortly.