Old Man River & the long lost and very much secret pool

The long lost and secret pool

‘I first heard of this pool several years ago, and as Emma proceeded to make headway up the valley clearing the pathway and exploring the valley floor, I visited on several occasions, it is mysterious, quiet and unspoilt.’

Some years ago, a good friend of hours, an artist name Emma Scott, leased a heavily overgrown secluded valley in Cornwall far away from the crowds of holiday makers and second home owners, with the idea to create an area to grow willow for use in basketmaking. This quickly extended to her creating willow installations and sculptures.

Emma has had many items such as climbing trellises, willow lobster pots, human figurines, animal sculptures etc. All commissioned from private customers. She has also displayed her work all over Cornwall and further afield.

Emma also creates ‘living sculptures’ made from willow trained into various shapes which grow over time, she teaches the art at her own workshops and displays her creations at the Royal Cornwall show.

Willow Obelisks

This is a story of her valley of discoveries. On first finding the valley and speaking with the owner, Emma found out that some 40 plus years previously there had been a footpath through the valley, which had been fenced and used as a nature trail, this was now long forgotten and had been overgrown, the years of neglect had resulted in nature claiming back the land. There was a stream and also a “leet” which carried water from somewhere upstream, along a channel which finally emptied back into the stream further down the valley. The place was a mystery awaiting to be unravelled.

Emma’s first task was to clear a space from which to work from, it entailed months of undergrowth and stunted tree removal. Eventually making a clearing which she levelled and seeded, making a flat lawn which she now keeps mown by hand.

Once this had been done Emma went on to clear further areas along the valley bottom making temporary shelters for her willow to be stored. Each time the plan was to clear just enough space to plant willow whips which can take up to 7 years to grow into useable materials. Emma also made plots that can be used in rotation.

The forgotten footpath

Bamboo Whips

That was was her plan. Meanwhile Emma also was creating commissioned sculptures and more simple items that were saleable locally, sometimes on a whim, she created ‘living sculptures’ in the valley wherever took her fancy. This resulted in a delightful hotchpotch of creations that can be stumbled upon as one explores. Some areas are surrounded by living sculpture hedges.

Living willow and witches stick

As the years went by Emma cleared the old path, made further grassed areas and created several workspaces -but never intruded upon natures bigger plan.

Emma made the slow and rather laborious way down the valley clearing and maintaining the areas that were used for creative work. The leet carrying water from the stream suddenly revealed its true purpose, hiding behind a thicket of wild bamboo and dense undergrowth Emma discovered a secret pool.

The secret is found

The Leet carried water from the pool overflow. It seems that in times past the pool was much less overgrown, and actually had had a footbridge crossing it. The bridge has long since become unsafe, but its beams and planks, though rotted are still in place.

The bridge – long since has become unsafe

I first heard of this pool several years ago, and as Emma proceeded to make headway up the valley clearing the pathway and exploring the valley floor, I visited on several occasions, it is mysterious, quiet and unspoilt.

Mysterious, quiet and unspoilt

Fish swim in its dark and shaded areas, occasionally rising to reveal their presence. I have never felt the need to cast a line here. Much preferring to leave them to their quiet existence, go and not be bothered by intrusions.

I have never felt the need to cast a line here

Their neighbours are the songbirds, an occasional deer, maybe even a grass snake, foxes on their nightly patrols, and a family of badgers that live on the hillside on the opposite bank.

I do not know what is on the other side of the weathered bridge, the area is still very overgrown and impossible to access. Emma has left it alone and unvisited, as she has no plans for alteration or clearing anywhere around the pool, liking the idea that nature has an undisturbed area where all its creatures can live without intrusion from outside.

So the secret pool still has further elements to be discovered, however, somehow I do not think that will happen under Emmas stewardship, she loves her valley as it is, sometimes noisy with birdsong, sometimes wet with flooding from the stream or pond, the air thick with insect life during the hot summer days, difficult and verging on impossible to maintain any sort of order when nature wants its way. It is probable that only 4 people know of the secret pools location. I am sure it will stay that way.

The place has a mystery that is slow to reveal, there are still several acres of valley bottom as yet to have a foot set upon them – who knows maybe there is still a further watery secret here.

Old Man River Cornwall April/May 2022