A couple of years ago I had the good fortune to live for a short while in a very special place called Crean. To say that it was magical sounds a bit hackneyed, but it is a true statement about the place. You can feel an ancientness about it which isn’t too surprising when you realise that there has been a settlement there since the Iron Age. Just imagine, an unbroken line of community since prehistoric times…
Within memory there was a total of three corn mills stretching down Crean valley plus a buttery/dairy which served the locality up until relatively recently. We resided in the converted Top Mill which still had the Listed cogs and wheels within the structure and outside the kitchen door was the remains of the waterwheel which powered the mill.
The grounds themselves were outstanding as the renowned Professor Philip Corbet had designed the gardens and ponds as a wildlife habitat. He was the world’s authority on dragon/damselflies who sadly died in 2008 and I have to say that I was truly entranced by all the different species that emerged in the summertime in that special garden. I spent many happy hours recording the sightings and I really miss all the wildlife we observed on a daily basis in Crean.
I also knew most of the local community in Crean. The inhabitants worked long and hard maintaining their households and the land accompanying them – a lot of them were run on similar lines to smallholdings and allotments. Many’s the time when we would walk through Crean’s wooded valley and buy home-grown produce from the various roadside stalls. Lots of families grew up there and are still in the vicinity. However, this tough but sustainable lifestyle in now under threat.
Over the past couple of years I have heard some disturbing stories from some of the tenants in Crean valley. Most of the properties there are let by the Tregothnan Estates which is owned by Lord Falmouth. (The Honourable(!) Evelyn Boscawen, is his son who runs things at present until he inherits the title.) In the past there have been opportunities to rent properties from such titled landowners to local people who are financially reliable and willing to maintain the properties. A vacant tenancy would be advertised and interested parties would be able to make bids to rent the property and it wasn’t necessarily the person with the most money who would be successful – it was decided on merit.
Sadly those days appear to be over in Crean as more and more of the tenancies that are coming up for renewal are not being honoured or are being disputed by Tregothnan Estates. Just this morning I heard from a local woman with a young family who was brought up in Crean valley who was seeking a vacant tenancy next door to her mother’s home. Up front she had to be able to supply 2 months rent as a deposit + 1 month’s rent in advance + £350 + VAT for legal fees + £25 for a credit check, the total of which in this case coming to approximately £2,500 – way beyond what the average working mother can afford or provide in Cornwall! Her application was turned down in favour of a couple who did have this kind of money in reserve who wanted to move into Crean just because, ‘they fancied a change – something different’. Nothing wrong with this average middle class couple, but I wonder how they will deal with the vagaries of a Cornish winter in a property that needs windows replacing and the only form of heating/cooking being a temperamental Rayburn!
Obviously because of the insecurity of tenancies, rumour and speculation are rife! However, it appears that the overall plan is to eventually evict all the present occupiers of the valley properties owned by the Estate and renovate them in order to either sell off as second homes, or (more likely) to rent as holiday lets at exorbitant rates. If this happens it will be the end of Crean as a sustainable hamlet as no community can survive when there are no permanent residents.
I find it ironic that the affluent and well-off minorities are now seeking to live in what used to be the peasants and workers dwellings. It will be shameful indeed if this thriving, albeit small, hamlet should be killed off to become a playground for the rich. If the locals have to depart then the excellent St Levan Junior School would have to close too.
I truly wonder whether the men who make these sweeping decisions which affect so many country folk consider what devastation they bring with their avaricious schemes. I doubt it.
If they did consider, would they care? I doubt it.
Are they happy and content as a result? I doubt it.
Down in this neck of the woods, we don’t have much, or own much – but we do appreciate things a whole lot more. We are rich in other ways…
Is there nothing we can do to stop this purging of a much-loved local community in time? Certainly I will do all I can drawing upon my own unique skills. Or will the holidaying Townies have to deal with the haunting of the enraged ancestral spirits of Crean?