Today I lunched in a ghost town called Lerryn. Or rather, a ghost village. And there were no actual ghosts. In fact, there were the spasmodic signs of life by way of vehicles passing through, an occasional dog-walker and one or two locals calling into the village store. Totally idyllic; so serene, picturesque and peaceful.
Almost the only sounds were leaves rustling downwards on to the riverside path and the squwaks and chirrups of the bird life. A million miles from care … and from all the horrors that daily assail us.
So why label this haven nestled in a wooded valley on the banks of the Lerryn River as a ghost town?
Sadly, for all its beguiling charm and instant appeal, Lerryn represents one of worst aspects of modern Cornwall. One reason for the quiet calm enjoyed on this autumn day is the lack of people. So many of its cottages and houses are deserted, bereft of occupants. They project that sad look of homes waiting for tenants. Windows are shut tight. Many interiors are bare or sparsely furnished. They have that end-of-season, dust-sheet and, yes, ghostly look of the unused and unwanted.
The most prominent signs in the village are To Let and For Sale. And a notice says the playgroup has closed down for lack of children.
Underscoring all this is the curse of the second home. While so many in the county go homeless, here in Lerryn (and elsewhere) is a reservoir of homes just waiting for families to bring them alive – to do the job they are meant to do by providing shelter and security and a roof over one’s head.
But as things are at present it is accepted that homes remain empty and people remain homeless so that a minority of cashed-up individuals can launder their excesses by buying second (or even third) homes that are gainfully used (and gaining is an apt description) for but a few weeks of the year.
And so Lerryn delights but also saddens.