THIS is the green at Reeth. Dotted around it is the usual collection of shops, pubs, cafes; even that increasingly threatened species, a rural post office.
Below is a small modern estate, just a few hundred yards from the green, and described as an arts and crafts centre. And indeed it is home to an amazing collection of creative and skilled people: jewellers, furniture makers, a clock maker and repairer, a sculptor.
The site is clearly signed, easily found, well laid-out – and yet surprisingly uninviting. It looks more like a trading estate than a craft centre and you can’t help feeling the artists and craftspeople would be more at home at the heart of the community as presumably such people once were. You would certainly have to go there with something specific in mind rather than chance upon it as a visitor.
We went to find clockmaker Ian Whitworth, in Unit 3, where we took three clocks for repair. Ian (my Ian) inherited them from his mother, Muriel, whose father was a German jeweller: he made his home in Liverpool in the late 1800s. One, a wall clock, had been a wedding present from his colleagues in 1904, and inscribed as such on a small brass plaque.
Neither lack of passing custom nor the seemingly endless recession had made an impact on the other Ian’s business. He makes clocks to order, as well as renovating them for sale, and doing repairs: there was at least a 20-week waiting list and he says trade has been surprisingly brisk in the past few weeks. Which in the current climate may seem odd, but not so difficult to understand when you see the range and quality of the clocks he makes and sells. They’re fabulous.
LOOKING for Ian we discovered an artist of a very different kind, jeweller and glass-maker Ewa (pronounced ‘ever’) Gorska. Her studio and shop, Pendangles, is at the far end of the estate and boasts a spectacular collection of her fused glass wall-hangings, plates, plaques and jewellery. You can watch her at work, and she will make items to order and in consultation with clients. Before setting up shop in Reeth Ewa, originally from Poland, was a senior manager for a multi-national company based in Newcastle. She doesn’t regret the move, even though it was hardly the best time to be starting a new business. Nevertheless, in the 48 hours between our two visits a number of gaps had appeared on the wall where once there’d been panels of various shapes and sizes. Somebody, clearly, was buying.