Living Leeside: Londoner Claudia enjoying the solitude of West Cork

LEAVING the “noisy, polluted” city of London for the solitude and beauty of West Cork was an easy decision for Londoner Claudia Kinmonth, who moved there 23 years ago with her husband Michael and young son Finbarr.
Living Leeside: Londoner Claudia enjoying the solitude of West Cork

Claudia Kinmonth. Picture: Michael Duerden

LONDONER Claudia Kinmonth tells Roisín Burke why she was only too happy
to leave the rat race behind for the tranquility of West Cork

Familiar with the Cork landscape and culture, thanks to numerous childhood holidays to Union Hall to visit her grandparents, Claudia felt West Cork was the perfect place to raise a family.

Her sons, Finbarr and Ewan, are now in their twenties and studying at Trinity College Dublin and at the University of Limerick.

Claudia said she has many fond memories of watching the boys growing up in West Cork.

“I have great memories of being outside and on beaches with our sons, and watching them growing up. Having fun, climbing trees, running wild on ponies, in small boats, on the water, and having picnics.”

Chatting about what she enjoys about life in Leap, Claudia has a long list.

“I love the green space, our rural views, the close horizons, the stars at night, the fresh air and swiftly changing light, the close visible coast, the birdsong, and wildlife, the sense of community and the light evenings,” she said.

“It is my happy childhood stamping ground, with a lot of family connections.”

Describing life in London, Claudia said she hated the noise and pollution and being a part of the ‘rat race’.

“We were sick of working so hard to stand still. 

"Cork is a very different place, people have time for each other here and you are more accountable, which is a good thing.”

Claudia said she has met and made friends with a number of resourceful, creative, supportive people who add colour to her days and said the additional space and time that she can avail of is contrast to her London life is another benefit.

There are a number of distinctive qualities of Corkonians that she hopes she has managed to absorb in part over the past 23 years.

“Cork people make eye contact, they are approachable, inquisitive, hospitable, speak poetically — and acknowledge each other while driving!”

Living in West Cork, Claudia has been involved in the Muskerry Pony Club for many years, with both her sons involved as children.

“It is a big outdoor community which I love. I made lots of friends through the pony club, we all did, it was always very sociable.”

The English woman said she still enjoys horse riding and horse swimming from time to time, although the family have since sold their horse ‘Cooper’.

“He was a fantastic horse, 16, 2ft chestnut gelding, we used him for eventing mostly and hunter trials. He was a fantastic jumper.”

Claudia jumping on horse 'Cooper'
Claudia jumping on horse 'Cooper'

Claudia was also involved in Green Skibbereen and campaigned and fought against plans to build a plastics factory on land outside the town of Skibbereen.

“I’m very environmentally conscious,” Claudia said.

In her spare time, Claudia enjoys gardening and she and her husband Michael Duerden also keep some hens and have a five-year-old mongrel terrier Ruby.

“We have had her since she was a pup. She is great fun.”

Claudia also likes to keep fit and since the pandemic, she has taken to doing HIIT and circuit workouts in the stables.

“I’m very health conscious and my job involves a lot of sitting, so it is important to keep fit.”

In pre-pandemic times, Claudia used to attend local ceilís and said while the dancing was complicated, ‘they were a great community thing’.

As a profession, Claudia worked restoring furniture for many years before studying furniture conservation and going on to complete a Masters and PhD in her field.

Her niche is Irish countryside furniture and she is a consultant curator, author, and researcher of Irish Art and Irish furniture history.

“I wanted to study something that no one had ever done before." 

"The design and history of Irish farmhouse furniture is a neglected field, it had not been studied before.”

Explaining what she enjoys about her work, Claudia said the design of furniture was a reflection of the way people live which she found very interesting.

“The furniture is reflective of the culture and social history of the times.”

Claudia has released three books on the history of Irish furniture, her most recent book, Irish Country Furniture and Furnishings 1700-2000, just released its reprint after selling 3,000 copies in three weeks before Christmas. The author is also a member of the Royal Irish Academy and a Visiting Research Fellow at The Moore Institute, NUIG, where she often gives presentations on her work.

For more information about Claudia’s work and her books, log on to www.claudiakinmonth.ie

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