Winter winds whip up cold white waves. Hung anoraks form puddles on porch floors. Footsteps echo on empty cobbled streets. Welcome to January in Padstow. Where tranquility prevails and treasures abound.
For Padstow, January means downtime. But while afternoons spent thumbing pages by the fire are definitely tempting, the summer crowds and Christmas revellers leave behind a town begging to be explored. From the trinkets and furniture found within the walls of Wadebridge Antique Centre, to the artworks hidden in the area’s many galleries, Padstow is a paradise for treasure seekers of all kinds.
Meet the treasure keepers
One of Padstow’s key treasure keepers is Jane Reeves, of Jane Reeves Gallery Stroll through town, shake off your brolly and duck into a space bursting with artworks and crafts inspired by our coastline.
“All my inspiration is from the north Cornwall coast,” says Jane, whose own practice involves, remarkably, painting with powdered glass. “And over the years I’ve sold my work in galleries, particularly seaside galleries,” she continues. “Then about two and half years ago we decided to open our own – it’s something we always wanted to do.”
The Jane Reeves Gallery is now home to over 40 artists and craftspeople, from painters to jewellers and ceramicists, from all corners for the UK. “I’m not from Cornwall. I’m an outsider too, really,” says Jane. “So I thought it would be great to have artists from Padstow itself, all the way up to the Isle of Skye. It’s a real eclectic mix. And our artists love the opportunity to get into a gallery in Cornwall, because it can be really hard.”
However, there is a common theme. “A lot of people who come into the gallery love the sea. It’s why they’re here. People have a real connection to it and a lot of our artists do reflect the coast. But it’s not all blue hues and waves.”
Beyond Padstow, more treasures await – lovingly collected and housed by Alex Robins at the Wadebridge Antique Centre “I love old things,” says Alex. “I just started off collecting and I’ve always dealt all my life. From markets and fairs to my own antiques centre.”
Just a few years ago the building was a 102-year-old abandoned garage. “It was full of oil and dirt,” says Alex, who’d been working in antiques for 40 years before opening the doors in Wadebridge. “Now it’s got fitted red carpets. It’s a real rags to riches sort of place. You can see all the old photos of it here.”
The décor of the expansive, treasure-packed space reflects Alex’s heritage. “It’s all part of my history,” she says. “I was born on the fairground, you see. And the pillars that hold up the ceiling are from a fairground. They’re about 100 years old, but going strong.” And surrounding these pillars are hoards of fascinating, beautiful and curious items and artifacts collected by Alex and 14 other dealers.
Make like magpies
So what treasures can you lay your eyes on at the Jane Reeves Gallery? “We’ve got lots of painters who we’ve known over the years and really love. We have printmakers. We’ve got a lovely selection of jewellry, which goes down really well. And we’ve got amazing ceramicists too.”
Pushed to pick some prime pieces for visiting art magpies, Jane recommends the work of silversmith Helena Emmans, from the Isle of Skye, who not only produces beautiful and collectable jewellry, but also makes silver spoons. “They’re stunning pieces of sculpture that reflect where she lives and how she feels about her environment,” explains Jane. “I totally love those.”
And if you’ve got more of a penchant for paintings, seek out pieces by local Cornish artist Andrew Jago. “Andrew walks around the local area and paints what he sees. So it’s very reflective of Cornwall. And he’s a really exciting up-and-coming artist.” Perfect for those looking for something to remember their holiday by.
The Wadebridge Antique Centre offers something of an eclectic mix, too. Whether you want to pick up something to take home or simply soak up captivating stories, you’re sure to strike gold. “I’ve got some amazing things – like a skeleton with a crushed vertebrae where the rope had hung him,” says Alex. “I’ve got a mammoth’s tooth that’s I don’t know how many million years old. Gold and silver. Some really unusual taxidermy. An Edison phonograph. A figure from a ghost train in Southend. And a 100-year-old piece of hoof made into a snuff box. It’s very primitive. But that’s its charm.”
Unsurprisingly Alex couldn’t pick a favourite, but a 1970s fairground rocking horse holds a special place in her heart. And it fits right in to this wonderfully bizarre, story-steeped space held up by old fairground pillars.
Take a post-trawl stroll
Had your fix of treasure trawling and fancy getting outdoors? Why not follow in Jane’s footsteps. “There’s a beach called Trevone just a mile outside of Padstow that I love. It’s quiet out of season, in fact even in season it’s not terribly busy,” she says. “That’s where I go a lot, to be inspired. You can often go there and there’s not a single soul on the beach. Especially in the winter. The waves you get then are amazing. There’s just something about the light that is really fantastic.”
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