24 May 2021

Submerged ancient forest of Mount’s Bay will emerge with new arts trail

Mount’s Bay is home to a submerged ancient forest, an enchanting phenomenon that is rarely seen, but occasionally uncovered at very low tides. In 2021, the forest will emerge with a reimagined arts commission by award-winning artist Emma Smith.

Recalled in the name of St Michael’s Mount - Karrek Loos yn Koos - which translates as ‘Grey Rock in the Wood’, it is thought the Mount’s Bay forest reached inland before its submergence, linking what is now land and sea.

Delivered by the EXPERIENCE project, it will be located along the upgraded Penzance-Marazion Coast Path. Due to be installed in Autumn 21, it will provide the opportunity to reflect on the bay, and its geological and ecological importance.

Emma Smith’s proposal was selected by a panel of experts, and representatives from the local community. The panel were impressed by Emma’s community engagement approach, which is at the core of her concept development. She will work in collaboration with Newlyn Art Gallery & the Exchange to engage local residents in this arts trail.

The arts trail will celebrate the power of collective and shared imagination. Made up of ‘seeing sticks’ along the path, the artwork will create the impression of clusters of trees, inviting the public to imagine the forest that was lost to the sea. Visitors to the path will be able to sit, lean and engage with the sculptures. A place to encourage imaginative contemplation and reflection across the Bay.

Emily Kent, Cornwall Council’s Head of Economy, Skills and Culture comments: “This is a visionary project that will deliver an iconic art trail for the Mount’s Bay area. Beginning with consultation with the local community. This project meets our Creative Manifesto’s sustainable cultural tourism ambitions. Whilst the concept has climate emergency at its core, linking with the Gyllyn Warbarth, Together we can: The Cornwall Plan. It will create a legacy for generations whilst attracting visitors in a sustainable way.”

Emma Smith, selected artist comments: “I am extremely grateful to have this opportunity. I am excited to explore how this extraordinary geology can be collectively imagined. This will encourage conversations on local ecology and climate emergency. This location means a lot to me and I can’t wait to work with residents to realise this work.”

Florence Sibley, Truro & Penwith College student, comments: “I loved how this proposal related to the location. I have lived in Penzance all my life, but I was not aware of the submerged forest. You get a lot of art trails where it doesn’t really matter where they are, but this proposal is so closely linked to the history of Mount’s Bay. It really wouldn’t work if it was anywhere else and it will bring this amazing ancient forest to life for the local community.”

Emma Smith is an international artist based in the UK. She has a social practice and creates work for the public realm. Her work reveals the extraordinary ways we are connected to each other and the landscape. Looking at hidden forms of connection, unearthing histories and proposing new futures. Emma’s work involves the public in its research, development and realisation. Bringing together diverse fields of interest and celebrating local knowledge. Previous commissions include Tate Modern, Barbican, Bluecoat, Arnolfini, Kettle’s Yard and Whitechapel Gallery.

The arts trail is part of the EXPERIENCE project, which promotes experiential tourism and sustainable economic growth during October - March.  Cornwall’s funding will support activities that encourage a sustainable cultural tourism approach.

Connecting visitors with the distinct historical, geographical and cultural assets of the local area.  It aims to leave a positive impact for the community and visitors alike.
Due to run until June 2023, the project is co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) through the Interreg France (Channel) England Programme under the Natural and Cultural Heritage funding category. Of the €16.1m ERDF committed to the total project, €1.9m is allocated to Cornwall Council, which is investing a further €0.9m.