Timeless tranquility at Keld: Virginia Rushton

With the hustle and bustle of daily life constantly overwhelming us, finding a quiet place to rest is often at the bottom of our priorities. But what if you had the chance to combine musical activity with a trip to a tranquil destination? After overcoming serious illness, Artistic Director of Operahouse Music Projects and ISM council member Virginia Rushton reflects on her profound trip to Keld.

Almost completely hidden in a deep cleft in the Pennines, the tiny village of Keld in Swaledale is notable for many reasons. It is at the heart of a dramatic landscape, the crossing-point for the Pennine Way and the Coast-to-Coast Walk, and overlooks historic meadows and field-patterns going back centuries. The calls of lapwings and curlews and the bleating of sheep blend with the sound of the River Swale cascading over multiple waterfalls on its way from the high Pennines to join the River Ure at east of Boroughbridge.

ucked away in this remote Dale, Keld is a cluster of mid-nineteenth century buildings; the legacy of a visionary 18th-century non-conformist preacher who walked all the way to London to raise money to build a chapel for the people of Keld. Edward Stillman’s vision included Keld day school and in 1854 he recruited thirteen young men to form the Keld Mutual Intellectual Improvement Society, with their own classroom and library. And now, in the twenty-first century, there is a vision to restore the 19th-century assembly room, a light space with lofty ceiling and superb views down the valley, to create a Centre for study days, and seminars, retreats and – music rehearsal space.

Recovering from serious illness, I was taken on a shiny day in March for a visit to this extra-ordinary place of physical and spiritual regeneration. Walking by the river, exploring the Well-being Garden, absorbing the layered sounds of water and birdsong, I thought what a wonderful environment this would be for musicians to work in. Physically, it was nothing like and yet the spaciousness and beauty reminded of the other-worldly atmosphere of Snape marshes.

So, here is my message: head for Keld in the high hills of Swaledale when you need an inspirational place to prepare a new concert programme or recording project!

For more information about how to book a room for rehearsals, concerts and recitals and more in Keld, visit http://www.tkrc.org.uk.