Lost, because for decades, since WWI in fact, the gardens were totally neglected, and were severely overgrown by the time a connection of the Tremayne family and a group of enthusiastic friends decided to bring the garden back to its former glory – think of the 100 years the Sleeping Beauty lay asleep until her prince came to waken her. Heligan was a bit like that.
The estate belonged to the Tremayne family from the 16th century, and under a few of its owners plans were made for improvements. By the time the first world war came along there were 22 gardeners looking after the place, a typical 18th century garden with different areas of differing types, including a New Zealand Garden, which sadly I did not see.. By the end of the war 16 of those gardeners were dead, and the ones that were left struggled to keep it going. The big house had various tenants over the years and the garden was largely ignored until it was leased, towards the end of the 20th century, by a group of people who were keen to rediscover the gardens.
They cut back all the wilderness, making exciting discoveries as they went slowly through all the gardens. Old greenhouses were rebuilt; a pineapple pit restored, ponds cleared out and refurbished. The Italianate pavilion and pond were also renovated; a grotto found, and bit by bit paths through the gardens rebuilt. Then the planting, and with the foresight of what the gardens would look like years ahead, it must have been an interesting job.
One part of the garden was turned into an organised jungle with wooden decking paths and bridges weaving back and forth over the stream to allow views of the series of ponds and little cascading falls.
the apple arches;
………and this, the aristocratic scarecrow – I was almost writing snowman instead of scarecrow! As you can see it is very much a productive garden. I was interested – excited even - to see pineapples actually growing in one of the pineapple pits!
I think that the most photographed things in the gardens though, were the sculptures of the Mud Woman, reclining asleep in the ground, and the giant’s head coming up from under the ground! Nature has taken on these two sculptures to great effect!
I wandered round and about the gardens for several hours, back and forward, retracing my steps and taking different paths, and at least I found the tearoom for a much needed bite to eat and something to drink.
I have to say I wasn’t all that thrilled by the famed Lost Gardens. I was very impressed with the work that has been done and that is still ongoing, but I was a little disappointed in the gardens themselves. Still I can say I’ve seen them, which is more than I can say for the Eden Project which was one of my main reasons for coming to Cornwall. I just felt that the weather being so hot, walking round under the plastic domes just wouldn’t be my cup of tea. Anyway, it’s an excuse to go back to the furthest south west of the country. I’d do a lot more research before I went next time. I have found out so much more about things to see, since coming home. Suddenly I’ve realised I’ve never mentioned the cousins I also went to see, near St Ives. I spent a couple of hours with them each evening, looking up family history stuff on the internet with Ken, and chatting with Dot over a cup of tea. Lovely folk! One day I met one of their daughters and her daughter too – and you might guess that I had taken photos of them all! (Silent screams and sweery words!!!!). If anything it’s those pics I really want back.
Well without photos of my own I’ve had to borrow from other sources, and I have to thank all the photographers for their lovely pics. Several of them came from this website, which is well worth looking at. http://www.cornwalltour.co.uk/the_lost_gardens_of%20_heligan.html I hope you’ll take a look.
Next time I’ll be back in Scotland, still on my travels.
Talk again soon.