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A Cornish love affair

Wednesday, January 22, 2014
9:00 AM

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My Cornwall

Jenny is a fabulous example in healthy living resulting in lasting beauty. She walks for miles in Cornwall and swims in the sea every summer and she is passionate about the fantastic array of creativity which exists in Cornwall.

ART: She has always collected watercolours. “This area attracts wonderful artists and painters, for its beautiful southern area and for the extraordinary light, particularly at the coast where the colours are so incredible. It must be so very challenging to try and capture that constantly changing sea and sky.”

She loves The Newlyn School of Art, based in the famous artists’ colony of Newlyn in West Cornwall, which provides inspiring art courses in painting, drawing, sculpture, pottery and printmaking taught by many of the best known artists working in Cornwall. “Then there is The Falmouth School of Art which of course offers brilliant degrees into fine arts.”

FABRICS: “I often buy locally produced fabrics, including beautiful knitted designs and wonderful wall hangings.

DESIGN:”People like Carin Lindberg of Camali Design, a Swedish born designer who works from his home in Boscastle, on the beautiful north Cornish coast.”

FOOD: “There have always been the wonderful cheeses, dairy products and fish and now this is backed by some stunning restaurants.” She’s unwilling to favouritise, “but there’s a particularly special place in Cadgwith…”

So catch her where you can. Jenny’s family weekends are in the outdoors, visiting local restaurants and the galleries of painters and artisans. So if you miss her on the train platform, watch out for her almost everywhere else!

A Christmas Special of Call the Midwife is planned followed by a third series, to be shown early in the New Year.

How many people have spied Jenny Agutter at Paddington Station, as she boards the London to Cornwall night train, or caught the famous actress, as she alights refreshed after a great night’s sleep on the London Riviera, at Lizard?

Jenny is one of the London to Cornwall Sleeper train’s regular passengers and has been a huge campaigner for the battle to continue the line - her favourite way to get to her beloved Cornish home.

And while this iconic British actress, still best remembered for her role as Roberta in The Railway Children, may not be taking off her red knickers to wave them at the train driver, the beautiful 60- year-old is one of the train lines’ seriously glamorous celebrity travellers.

Not that you will see her in so much as a skirt during weekends in Cornwall. She adores glorious couture - a Google search will find myriad catwalk images of her wearing among others, silk rayon pleated gold Gina Frattini gowns, flamboyant Zandra Rhodes creations and immaculately- tailored Catherine Walker suits, but: “contrasting lifestyles demand separate wardrobes,” and the silk dresses and suits are left firmly behind in Camberwell.

"“Jenny first visited Cornwall in 1976 to make The Eagle Has Landed”"

Instead, she’s often to be seen in and around Cadgwith, looking relaxed and comfortable in jeans a sweater and good stout walking shoes in the area where Jenny, husband Johan Tham and their son Jonathan live.

Jenny first visited Cornwall in 1976 to make The Eagle Has Landed. In this epic movie, when Jenny starred alongside Michael Caine, Donald Sutherland, Robert Duvall and Anthony Quayle; Cornwall stood in for the Channel Islands and ‘Occupied Alderney,’ a Channel Islands town - was recreated at the Charlestown harbour. The German communications post was built at the edge of the harbour, while the ‘George and Dragon’, the pub from which Liam Devlin (Donald Sutherland) gets ejected, is the town’s Pier House Hotel.

Now Jenny is at the very top of her game with her role Sister Julienne in the popular BBC1 series, Call the Midwife. For anyone who has not seen it, Jenny plays the kindly clever nun in the series based in a poverty-stricken East End of London.

As a child star she was famously in the BBC 1967 serialisation of The Railway Children. Then she flew to the Australian bush to film Walkabout. Three years later she played Roberta again in the film of The Railway Children. The following year she played Fritha in the BBC TV film of The Snow Goose, for which she won an Emmy. At just 21 years old, Jenny was at The National Theatre to play Miranda in Sir Peter Hall’s production of The Tempest with Sir John Gielgud.

Films include Logan’s Run, An American Werewolf in London and Sweet William.

Jenny’s television appearances have won her a large audience on both sides of the Atlantic. Credits include A War of Children, Beulah Land, Silas Marner and The Buccaneers and played opposite John Hurt in the TV adaptation of The Alan Clark Diaries. In 2000, Jenny returned to The Railway Children to play Mother in the Carlton TV adaptation of the story.

In 2012 Jenny was awarded an OBE for her work as an ambassador for Action for Children and other charities including the Cystic Fibrosis.

“As an actor you can make a difference by drawing attention to things you care about and you can encourage and congratulate the wonderful volunteers for their relentless work. For the last 14 years I have spent one night every year sleeping on the streets to support Action for Children. When I started there were about 30 of us - this year, when by the way, it poured with rain, between 300 and 400 people were sleeping out in London and about 900 right across the country. Marvellous.”

Cornwall has provided the peace and contrast and healthy living needed to sustain a frenetic schedule.

“There is an ancient wild and rugged quality,” she says. “People love and fear it. So many over the years have lost their lives to the sea and for farmers it really is a battle to survive. But people are determined to enjoy its beauty – and they have a lot of fun while they battle on to make a living.”

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