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Cornwall community creates dune art to mark St Piran’s Day

Dynamic Dunescapes

Cornwall’s coastal dunes and their links to the legend of Saint Piran are being celebrated in a community art exhibition organised by Cornwall Wildlife Trust and Dynamic Dunescapes.

The paintings, created by schoolchildren, community groups and local residents, are currently on display at Livingstone St Ives gallery in Perranporth, to coincide with this year’s St Piran’s Day celebrations on March 5.

Last month, as part of a nationwide project called Dynamic Dunescapes, the Trust worked with a local environmental artist to lead a series of public art workshops at Penhale Dunes. Participants were encouraged to explore the landscape’s unique history, geology and wildlife, which included a visit to remains of St Piran’s Oratory, before using paint made from Cornish earth pigments to create their works of art.

Nearly 400 paintings were produced by 100 attendees from Perranporth Art Group, Perranporth Community Primary School, Richard Lander School and members of the public.

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Andy Nelson, People Engagement Officer for the Dynamic Dunescapes project at Cornwall Wildlife Trust, is confident these popular workshops and other upcoming events will help people better understand the importance of sand dunes:

“Our work is all about getting people outdoors to experience their dunes, which has become ever more important since the pandemic. These workshops have done exactly that – getting those from the community to connect with their local wildlife, to love their coastal spaces, and to learn about Cornish identity and history through the stories of Saint Piran.

“It’s small-scale but meaningful projects like this one that will allow people to appreciate
these threatened places and, in turn, help keep them special in the long-term.”

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Healthy sand dunes with moving sand are a sanctuary for rare plants and animals like the silver-studded blue butterfly and scrambled egg lichen. Yet they are considered as one of the most at-risk habitats in Europe, threatened by climate change, increased vegetation growth, development and invasive species.

Cornwall Wildlife Trust is working to bring wildlife back to two of Cornwall’s largest sand dune systems: Penhale Dunes near Perranporth and ‘The Towans’ near Hayle. The restoration work comes as part of the UK-wide £10 million Dynamic Dunescapes project funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the EU LIFE programme.

The three-year project in Cornwall is also encouraging people to access and enjoy their local dunes and take an active part in their conservation. With help from FEAST Cornwall, the team has commissioned artists to run creative sessions aimed at increasing public interest in, and support for, these precious landscapes.

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Artist Peter Ward, who led the recent workshops, said:

“The primary motivation behind my art is engagement with local ecologies and so this project with Cornwall Wildlife Trust and Dynamic Dunescapes was a great opportunity to share my own knowledge and experience.

“What has surprised me is the fantastic response from every aspect of the community and the wonderful artwork created. It has been a pleasure to work with the team and to see the whole project come together so beautifully.”

According to popular legend, Saint Piran, the patron saint of Cornwall and Miners, landed at Penhale Dunes in the 4th Century after a voyage from Ireland. He was befriended by a badger, fox and bear who became his disciples and went on to build a chapel in the dunes, evidence of which still remains today.

The art exhibition is open until Sunday 13th March, with Cornwall Wildlife Trust staff and volunteers in attendance from 1-4pm each day. For more information about the event, click here.