The approach towards the Winter Solstice is, for most, a time for reflection and merriment. As the Sun makes its shortest venture through our sky of the year on the 21st of December, we begin to enjoy longer days and shorter nights once again. Here at St Nectan’s Glen, the winter season also provides the opportunity for our team to discuss, deliberate & deliver on changes to how we manage the site to offer an exceptional experience for our guests. Whilst our first priority is to preside over the conservation & development of this magnificent area and all of its ecological features, we also strive to provide visitors with the means to participate in the Glen’s historical, cultural & scientific significance in ways that will preserve it for generations to come.
Here is a brief look at some of the winter projects our team has been (and will continue) working on throughout the winter months, and a little insight into how they benefit St Nectan’s Glen and the surrounding area.
Adam, our resident Woodsman, has endeavoured to plant over six hundred trees in our ever-growing new woodland. These juvenile trees, making up the lovingly-named Adam’s Wood, are part of an ongoing effort to generate wooded areas for future generations to enjoy. An act of patience and resilience, new-woodland management is a process that takes great skill and commitment but yields astonishing results as the saplings mature and nature takes charge of reshaping the landscape from one of grasses and weeds to one of towering birches and great oaks.
There is more to planting trees and waiting involved in new-woodland management. The Glen plays host to many creatures that would seek to undo Adam’s hard work by eating the freshly-planted saplings. This means providing each tree planted with tree guards for protection, and canes for support in the strong winds is an essential part of the process. There is also the huge responsibility of monitoring the area, to make sure any potential issues that arise are handled as soon as possible to provide the woodland with the best potential start in life.
“It isn’t enough to put the trees in the ground, they have a while to go before they are capable of surviving and thriving on their own. Not all of these trees will survive long enough to grow as tall as the existing trees here at the Glen, but we can do our best to provide them with the best possible chance.”
Fortunately, Adam hasn’t had to work alone on this project. Twenty trees were planted thanks to the efforts of hardworking volunteers from Boscastle Primary School, who will benefit from their undertaking in years to come as they enjoy a woodland they can stake claim to. But the significance of their actions is not limited to planting trees, they have contributed to the nature around them in a way that mutually benefits our species and the planet we call home, whilst learning a truly invaluable skill to pass on to others.
“It’s important we get children from the local area like you involved in projects like these, because it is you that are going to enjoy it when it reaches its full potential,”
Adam told the budding volunteers, encouraging them to come back to explore and enjoy the trees they planted in years to come.
Whilst most of the flora and fauna at St Nectan’s Glen are long-time residents or frequently welcomed visitors, sometimes we meet arrivals who are less desirable. Cherry Laurel (or English Laurel) is a species of evergreen shrub that was brought over to the UK and Ireland in the late 16th Century. It is an invasive species, and given its effective combination of tolerance towards both drought and shade with a rapid growing speed, it can prove detrimental to native wildlife. Its leaves and fruits are also poisonous to many species including humans.
In order to preserve natural ecosystems that have developed over millions of years, sometimes it is essential for human intervention. Foreign animals and plants can wreak havoc on established environments by out-competing native species and upsetting the food chain. Therefore our maintenance team has attempted to correct the human error of introducing this plant several hundred years ago by carefully removing and disposing of it, whilst being careful not to damage or harm any of the native species that have, until recently, had to share their soil with it.
Robin Red Breast
Whilst the number of human visitors we receive in the winter may decrease, we see no shortage of animal guests spending time in our gardens. Namely, the much-loved European Robins. These well-known birds are partially migratory, meaning they can endure colder climates but may choose to fly as far as North Africa in search of the sun during the winter. St Nectans Glen, being as far South in Great Britain as it is, often entertains those birds choosing to stay. A welcome addition, they are often found at our many bird feeders and baths, or close by to our gardeners in search of insects unearthed. Robins are one of several species of British wildlife that are steadily increasing in numbers and provide a lovely symbol of hope and prosperity for the last of the shortening nights of winter as well as a familiar face in the garden as we approach Christmas.
Providing wholesome, hearty food to be enjoyed in the fire-lit Tree of Life Cafe has been the objective which our head chef Tim Flower has been striving towards this winter. We have heard no end of positive responses to his adventurous menus inspired by rustic customs and traditional roots. Many of our visitors are pleasantly surprised to be greeted by such an inclusive selection of home-cooked and original concept dishes in such a remote place, and we could not be more pleased with our catering team’s achievements.
Whilst our specials change regularly with the availability of locally-sourced produce, the availability of our dishes do not. We serve food throughout the winter from 10 am to 3 pm, with the exception of Christmas day.
“Despite living in France for 20 years, Tim has prepared the best Beef Bourguignon I have ever tried.”
A question often asked at St Nectan’s Glen is what we do with the collections of offerings, wishes, and totems left behind by guests who place them as symbols of remembrance or faith. The number of visitors to the Glen has increased over the last few years and with it the number of symbols. Such items take the form of stones & minerals, objects of personal significance, wishes left on our Wishing Tree, messages written in our visitor book, and photographs of loved ones. We take great care in handling or manoeuvring anything placed, and sometimes essential cleansing occurs to protect the ecological infrastructure that humankind balances with the natural world of the area.
As a mark of respect, we conducted a small ritual on the 10th of November whereby the oldest of the mementos left at the Glen are offered to fire in an act of release. Set to the contrasting backdrop of the waterfall itself, this was organised and conducted by a member of our team named Tash, who is passionate about ensuring that all of the memories left in our care are truly honoured.
“The nature of the environment means that over time things deteriorate and need attending to. There was a need to create a ceremony to honour these offerings and the beautiful nature of the Glen by recognising all of its elements and its true spirit.”
The words written and spoken by Tash during the ceremony can be found here, with a short video of the proceedings.
One area within our site where many find solace in leaving such items is the Meditation Room, located within the hermitage that has stood atop the Glen for centuries. Adorned with tributes to this magical place and those that have enjoyed it but since left this plane, the Meditation Room invites solace for those seeking to say farewell to lost loved ones as well as a place for inner reflection surrounded by peaceful thoughts left by others. We feel that such spaces are important, as are the thoughts, wishes, and prayers written by our visitors. To this effect, we aim to further develop the reflective spaces we offer to allow quiet moments of contemplation, whether your practice is spiritual or otherwise. We also intend to create an archive system of memories from the various messages left on site, to curate the wishes and thoughts left behind into a capsule of moments preserved for decades to come.
Secret Supper Club
As another year of events and activities at St Nectan’s Glen draws to a close, we welcomed one final gathering of company around our table for an evening of merriment with our Secret Supper Club. Candlelight and wood fire warmed the bones of visitors who ventured through an evening walk along the river to our Tree of Life cafe and feasted on three courses of hearty, home-cooked delights from our kitchen.
Caryl was one of the visitors who ventured through the shadowy woodland walk and emerged at our stunningly lit cafe one Thursday evening in December;
“A starry walk to supper guided by fairy lights, listening to the sounds of the water at night. The Tree of Life Cafe was a welcoming glow through the trees as we entered a beautiful display of candelabras and chandeliers. The supper table was set ready for 10 in a warm and welcoming atmosphere, and the three-course, Greek-themed menu was utterly delicious. The idea of meeting new friends and sharing food was an excellent one, thoroughly enjoyed by all. Strolling back through the woods after supper, guided by moonlight with much to talk about was a lovely ending to a unique evening.”
Due to overwhelmingly positive feedback, the Supper Club will return in January. There are also plans for similar events and evening activities hosted at the Glen, a place where few have had the fortune of truly experiencing the beauty of clear skies above the water or the mysterious serenity of its moonlit woodlands. We look forward to welcoming such visitors, and remind them that a torch is essential for excursions through the woodland at night!
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