Conversations at Valhalla, Tresco, Isles of Scilly

Within the exotic gardens at Tresco is Valhalla. This is an area covered from the elements but open at the front, and is used to display ships figureheads mainly found wrecked nearby.

I first met the figures when there were no visitors. It was a grey day, which emphasised both the scale and bright heritage paints. It must be an eerie place at night, with moonlight catching on varnished lips or blue eye.

On my second visit the conservators were stretching from ladders to rub, caress and check painted cheek, curve, and gilded scroll. Talk was of paint numbers and lunch.

The workmen were warmly clad in practical paint daubed clothing, in stark contrast to the brightly painted and carefully crafted figures and fish. Although made of wood these figureheads embodied the religious beliefs, family loyalties and maritime[ heritage over centuries.The hopes and fortunes of captains and investors, dashed on hidden rocky ledges.

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