The Kingdom of Kudhva
If you’re reading this, then the chances are you’re already some way along the path.
And by now, it’s likely that you’ll have your first impression, and it’s important to keep that close. Tuck it in a metaphorical pocket and, from time to time, dig it out and refer back. See if it’s changed. Because one thing I have noted from my time at Kudhva is that my first impression remains, in the most part, true to the original. Of course, layered upon that are a multitude of further impressions of this place, taken from all manner of moments – changing weathers, seasons, times of day, spots I happened to find myself in – and to my last impression, as I leave the hillside and return to… well, whatever it is that I return to.
Kudhva is, to me, a wild place. Look around you and you’ll note that nothing here has really been tamed… it’s just been managed, facilitating an opportunity to look upon and live alongside, albeit for a moment or more, a true Cornish wilderness, borne unto a post-industrial landscape. It is a symbiotic sanctuary that is maintained, enjoyed and exulted by those who fell in love with it, just as I did, and as you probably will too.
My first impression, upon my first visit – when it was still the dominion of the brambles and the bracken, and the low boughs of the willow trees, as I wandered out onto a splay of Cornish heather, glowing gold in a slow setting sun – was of a place that seemed many miles from the hustled, beach-bound road that I had turned off just a few minutes earlier.
And as I anticipated the arrival of my host that evening, Kudhva’s founder and guiding flame Louise, there was an instant and instinctual sense of my lesser significance in contrast to the unrestrained landscape around me. To qualify that… it’s not like I felt I was about to get jumped by a mountain lion, or wind up as dinner for a grizzly bear (although I’d never rule that out… like I said, it’s a wild place) but I did get the notion that, not only had I wandered off the beaten path, but that I had wandered into something that hadn’t been beaten at all for many years. The signs of Kudhva’s industrial yore are all around you, and as such, so are its ghosts. But so is the overpowering play of nature, left to prevail magnificently for decades.
And as I got to know Kudhva in the weeks and months that followed, that impression was only reinforced. This place is a kingdom, given over to nature, nurtured by its caretakers, with each Kudhva hideout crafted into its position, and from within or upon which you can watch many of the best bits of a wild place unfold… the sun seeping into the adjacent sea, an Atlantic rain storm upon its final approach, the epic arc of stars overhead, resilient and vibrant wildflowers emerging from the dusty slate and slag, curious fauna in the sky above and within the thick, primal undergrowth below…
I shan’t wax too lyrical, for the real beauty of this place lies in what you gather from the groove of it. So remember that first impression, and enjoy the many yet to come. Kudhva is such a rarity in this corner of the country… a unique and accessible wilderness, just a short hop from the Cornish seaside, harnessed as anything wild really can be harnessed, and a place that, for those fortunate enough to visit, will continue to leave an impression long after that first, and long after you’ve left. Take my word for it.
Cai Waggett was one of the founders of the Leopallooza music festival in Cornwall, and now curates an annual art event called ‘The Cruel & Curious’. He is also part of the online/offline Hickory Nines collective: hickorynines.com