Who is behind the amazing rock balancing art on Cornwall’s beaches?

The impressive rock stacks found along Cornwall’s beaches started as a hobby for one man, but now they have a deeply felt meaning.

John Muir is the man behind the amazing moves. He is also the 2021 European Stone Stacking Champion.

But his passion and work of balancing stones is not only beautiful, it has a meaning that is closer to his heart.

The 62-year-old, who originally comes from Liverpool and now lives in Bodmin, said: “All my pieces are the title of friends or people I meet and there are one or two that mean a lot to me.”

The self-employed signmaker started balancing stones five years ago as a hobby.

He balances when he gets the chance, and dedicates his work to the special people in his life.

John is the winner of the European Stone Stacking Championships 2021
John is the winner of the European Stone Stacking Championships 2021

One of John’s works, named Rose after his mother, has a healthy story behind it that he will never forget.

He explained: “I heard that two more friends had passed away, that’s 15 friends and family within the last 15 months. I had that in mind when I went to the beach with the aim of creating something very specific.

“On the way to Watergate, I thought of a name, my mother’s name was Rose, but it had to be pretty special to have that name.

“The first effort was a success, but it lasted only about 20 seconds.

The story behind 'Rose' dedicated to her mother is heartwarming
The story behind ‘Rose’ dedicated to her mother is heartwarming

“The next three attempts all collapsed and I was running out of time so this was supposed to be my last attempt of the evening, with a little extra support on one of the big bottom rocks it finally clicked into place.

“When I took the pictures, a lady came over to see and thought it was just a bow – she was quite shocked to find out it was a heart.

“She then showed me a heart tattoo on her wrist and told me she looks for them everywhere she goes. I was still in doubt about the name until I asked the lady for her name. And the answer? Rosie.”

Another piece by Johns is called Friends, dedicated to all the friends he has lost over the years. He says it’s probably one of the best balances he’s made.

A piece called 'Friends' named after all those he lost
A piece called ‘Friends’ named after all those he lost

“I can not bring those people back, but I remember them every time I see this picture, which now also hangs on my wall,” he said.

His balance art has been recognized and appreciated by many people, not only on the beach, but on his Facebook page Rocks Up Cornwall .

John has also stretched his talent for teaching people workshops on the beach and selling his prints on Etsy.

He said: “Anyone can balance and enjoy doing it, it’s just a technique and a steady hand. I practice ‘leave no trace’ and I try to encourage others to do the same.”

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Along with his border collie, he tries to go to Port Quin regularly during the summer and to catch an hour on one of the St Austell beaches all year round.

He said: “It is very rare that I plan anything, but I have a special project planned.”

Next year, John plans to travel to Llano Earth Art Festival in Texas to compete at the World Championships. The World Rock Stacking Championships hold competitions that are taken very seriously and focus on one of the oldest human activities.

Events include competitions to build the highest rock stack, best rock balances, best rock arch builder, most rocks in a single tower and most artistic stone stack design.


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