A Restless Temple in Cornwall

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MountsBay
MountsBay

Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens are just ten minutes’ drive from Penzance, Cornwall, on the southwestern tip of England. The Gardens opened in 2012, the loving creation of a local doctor, Neil Armstrong (no relation to the astronaut). In 1997 he purchased the neglected, overgrown property, which once had been owned by the monks of St. Michael's Mount, and has taken a strong personal interest in the Gardens' development. He has turned Tremenheere into a magical faeryland of large-scale exotic and subtropical plants and monumental sculpture, tucked into a sheltered valley looking out towards St. Michaels’ Mount in Mount’s Bay, near Marizion. It is a glorious venue for an evolving collection of contemporary art installations. A friend dropped us off at the must-see locale. As we approached we were greeted by Penny Saunders’ “Restless Temple” kinetic installation, which opened in May 2015. It resembles a miniature Greek Parthenon with 10-foot high pillars located on a hill above the café. Each pillar is supported on a separate weighted pendulum that allows it to move independently of the others. They sway and careen, moving in surreal motion that is either very subtle if there is little breeze or a full-out dance if there is a gale. Words can’t do this piece justice. You must look at video footage shot on the site (CLICK).

TrembleTemple
TrembleTemple

Leaving the swaying temple and café behind, we wound our way along the woodland path to the entrance shed. A very helpful guide gave us a map complete with directions to new acquisitions drawn in, and advised us how best to approach the sculptures. We walked beside a babbling brook through a wilderness of mature trees and giant ferns. I am a dowser, and over the years I’ve become increasingly sensitive to subtle energies. I noticed several energetic gateways on the path as we moved deeper into this faeryland world. The aura around a huge oak tree provided another source of subtle energy. Thoroughly enchanted, we followed the path up into the sculpture garden proper.

Our first stop was at James Turrell’s “Tewlwolow Kernow” or “Skyspace,” which is a chamber designed for viewing the sky, especially at dawn and dusk. It was completed in June 2015. We walked through a dark hallway into the large all-white elliptical space with an oval hole in the ceiling, and sat on a built-in banquette. The seating made looking upward easy and comfortable, but the effect of the moving clouds made us slightly queasy and we quickly exited.

Sky
Sky

Walking further into the trees, we passed David Nash’s “Black Mound,” a collection of upright charred oak trunks in the middle of the forest. They reminded us of a mini-Stonehenge transformed into rich black wood. We tried counting them, getting numbers anywhere from 16 through 22. They stubbornly refused to be counted.

BlackMounds
BlackMounds

Coming out of the woods we came upon two huge angular metal sculptures called “Howling Beast” and “Crouching Beast.” They are impressive new additions by sculptor Lynn Chadwick and will be in residence in the Gardens for several months.

Beasts
Beasts

While strolling along one of the paths we met David, a grounds keeper, who proudly announced that Dr. Armstrong is his physician. He said they were preparing the gardens for the upcoming wedding of one of the doctor’s daughters.

GroundsKeeper
GroundsKeeper

Other sculptures include Tim Shaw Ra’s “Minotaur,” a life-size bull-like ceramic piece that expresses something fundamental about being; “Skhimza,” an installation by Ken Gill, using glass inserted into a natural crack in a boulder; and Richard Long’s “Tremenheere Line,” a line of plants terminating in a park bench on a hillside. Somehow we missed Billy Wynter’s “Camera Obscura,” so we must return another year to see the Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens as they develop. Although only 20 acres in size, the Gardens appear much larger because they are divided into different ecozones, which vary from wildlife ponds and swampy bogs to exotic woodlands and dry, arid settings.

The deep valley provides several microclimates, which accommodate an amazing array of plant life, including huge cactus, giant rhubarb, banana plants, palm trees, oak forest, and grassland. All this, plus an excellent café and a flower nursery adds up to a wonderful half-day outing for families. And not a garden gnome in sight!

st-mtt-neil
st-mtt-neil

Dr. Armstrong has purchased an adjoining area and is at work on a further expansion. Stay tuned to see what develops. (CLICK)

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