Meet Karen and David Johns

Karen has lived in the village since 2002, coming from a musical and textile background. When she moved to Cornwall, she retrained as a Horticulturist, specialising in planting and garden restoration. Another career move came in 2012 to help David run Encounter Cornwall, our sister venture. This saw her learning a new skill of kayaking, and putting all her abilities to good use – in photography, designing graphics, baking for the cafe, and landscaping & converting the Boatshed base. Over the last 2 years, her skill base has expanded – learning many different things during the build of the Sanctuary. You can ask her all about the build, as she was involved in every aspect, and loves to talk about our environment and 12 acres!

David has lived in Golant since 2009 after a very full life in the adventure travel industry – firstly, as a tour and expedition leader. He went on to run his own adventure travel business in Cheltenham before selling up and moving to Golant. His travels took him to over 100 countries but now, after getting to know a little bit about a lot of the world, he’s enjoying getting intimate with his little patch in Cornwall. For the last 10 years he has run Encounter Cornwall with Karen, winning several Cornwall Tourism Awards and South West Tourism Awards. . In November 2020 we sold Encounter Cornwall to fellow enthusiasts Paddle Cornwall, who have also taken over the Boatshed base. This will give us more time to concentrate on all the projects that The Sanctuary has inspired!

We both also love music – jazz in particular, singing together for fun – David plays the guitar as well, and we are often found in the Fisherman’s Arms with a motley crew of locals, taking part in all sorts of music. 

In 2015, we bought 12 acres of sloping land from our friend and neighbour in the village, and have spent the years since clearing bramble and bracken and restoring paths and glades. 7 of the 12 acres are woodland planted in 2002. We have tried to give the land a light touch, mowing paths, and planting some fruit and nut trees, but mainly monitoring all the different flora and fauna we have discovered as we go along. We have just started to create a new orchard which we hope will become an asset for the village – it is very important to us that the Sanctuary is a valuable part of the community, and we are very grteful for all the help, support and encouragement that we have enjoyed.

There was an old, timber, tin and concrete barn – on the only flat area on the entire site! We had the idea of creating a building that would welcome a modest amount of visitors, develop our interaction with the environment and encourage more people to engage – both on land and on the water. We also wanted to ensure that we had a light impact on the site – any building needed to be sustainably built, recyclable, and should it be dismantled, leave very little proof that man was ever there. Not an easy task – made more challenging by issues with access, and battling with bureaucracy that simply doesn’t understand any project that doesn’t fit neatly into their prescribed boxes. Hopefully, in the future, many of these issues which now seem unconventional will become standard ways of building sustainable, thoughtful buildings. Somebody has to start!

We want to encourage connection with the natural environment in as many ways as possible. It’s not ‘one size fits all’ – we are all different, and react in unique ways. We hope to be able to offer classes, walks, courses, and a place to just stay and relax. You might get out walking, cycling, kayaking, swimming, painting or any number of activities. Do as much or as little as you want. We are just starting out on this next leg of our adventure, and we hope that you will come along – visit, revisit, follow our progress on social media – feel a part of this – it’s you that will make this project a special one!


The Sanctuary











What our guests say:

Such an inspiring place, you really couldn’t ask for a more beautiful setting. The owners are so passionate and knowledgeable about nature, and so committed to environmental sustainability.