A garden by the sea and with not one but two large walled gardens for growing fruit, vegetables and cut flowers. Could Wellywoman ask for anything more?
Set in beautiful countryside looking out to sea with a microclimate that allows a wide range of plants from around the world to thrive the Lost Gardens of Heligan are an amazing place to visit. Add to this the fascinating story of their decline and restoration and it is hard to imagine another garden that offers its visitors so much.
We have just returned from a few days in Cornwall and our third visit to Heligan. Our previous visits have been in Spring but this time we were greeted by fabulous blue hydrangeas, exquisitely scented citrus blossom, bountiful brassicas and dazzling dahlias.
Heligan was the estate of the Tremayne family and was at its peak in the late Victorian/Edwardian period but, as for many estates, the First World War triggered Heligan’s decline. Nature began to take over and the gardens could have been lost forever if they hadn’t been discovered by Tim Smit and a friend whilst on a walk in 1990. Their vision, passion and hard work and that of many others has meant that Heligan once again thrives.
The top part of the garden includes the restored walled gardens that supply produce for the cafe and shop. Here you can see the Peach House, the Pineapple Pits and the Melon House and walk into an old tool shed that feels as if the Edwardian gardener has gone for some lunch. Surrounding the productive gardens are the Pleasure Gardens which include an Italianate Garden.
At the bottom end of the gardens are beautiful woodland walks and an impressive jungle. Walking through the jungle you wend your way down a valley, past a series of pools, enormous trees, bamboos and gunnera. The luxuriance of the foliage really does create a jungle feeling but without awful humidity and creatures wanting to bite you!
Joining the two sections is an area which shows how Heligan and the wider estate are being managed with wildlife in mind. A wildlife hide allows you to see footage of the barn owls that nest there. It’s also possible to sit and watch birds on some feeders. We saw a sparrowhawk, like a blue flash, swoop at a group of chaffinches and goldfinches.
Throughout the gardens are information panels showing old photographs from its heyday and pictures showing the state it was in before the restoration started.
The visitor facilities are excellent. It’s always a disappointment to go somewhere and find that these let the place down. The cafe at Heligan is great value, with locally produced food and the shop, too is well stocked, with a particularly good book section.
Heligan isn’t about cutting edge design or trendy planting schemes. It is less about gaining inspiration for your own garden and more about being absorbed by the magic and history of the place. For more information visit www.heligan.com