allotments with a view, Kestle Barton, Lost Gardens of Heligan, Mousehole, St Michael's Mount, The Potager Garden
Cornwall’s mild climate means a whole host of plants from around the world can grow happily there. Most visitors are drawn to the National Trust gardens, Eden and Heligan but if you look beyond these there are other places where you can get a plant fix too.
Driving along the coast road from Newlyn to Mousehole I spotted the tops of bamboo canes clearly arranged to provide support for runner beans and a glimpse of some allotments. Later that evening we came back to take a closer look at the plots perched on the cliff with views out towards St Michael’s Mount. It must be incredible to grow here, with the sound of the sea below, although I’m sure the salt-laden winds pose problems and I’d be a little worried about coastal erosion. Further up the coast at Praa Sands this winter’s storms had taken their toll, worryingly so for the homeowners whose gardens were creeping ever closer to the edge. Even so I loved these plots and their quirky scarecrows created from all manner of salvaged finds.
It’s unusual to find houses which come with a garden in the tiny fishing villages which dot the Cornish coast. That might explain the extraordinary waiting time to take for an allotment in this area, which according to the Penzance Town Council website ranges between 5 and 9 years. And, rather than devote more land to allotments the council have decided to divide any plots which become available into two in the hope this will tackle the waiting list. When a patch of land does come with a house it’s clearly much appreciated. This row of gardens, in Mousehole, were squeezed into a strip of land above the sea and separated from their houses by a quiet road. As gardens go they are tiny and exposed to whatever the weather throws at them, but it was heart-warming to see how they were clearly precious to their owners.
On our final day we decided to slowly make our way home rather than heading straight back. Our first stop was Kestle Barton. We’d picked up a leaflet for the place the previous day in St Ives and thought it might be worth a visit. Billed as a rural arts centre it was the garden designed by James Alexander Sinclair which persuaded us to divert there. This isn’t the sort of place which you are just passing by. A combination of directions on the leaflet and Google Maps directed us down ever narrower country lanes until we eventually found ourselves at the end of the road and our destination. When Karen Townshend, ex-wife of The Who’s Pete Townshend, came across these old farm buildings dating back to the 19th century they had been untouched by modern agriculture and were crumbling into a state of ruin. Now they have been stunningly and sympathetically restored to provide an exhibition space and self-catering accommodation.
From the barn you walk out into a south-facing garden with bold drifts of herbaceous flowers and grasses. The scent from the mass planting of the lavender was divine and the sight of the vast meadow teeming with bees and butterflies was a delight. I’ve since discovered that the surrounding farm land is managed with the environment in mind. Tree planting projects, a commercial walnut nuttery, an orchard of Cornish apple, cherry and plum varieties and organic principles all form part of a plan to show how farming can adapt to climate change. Small field boundaries are being restored and native hedgerows planted. I love the ethos and if the wildlife in the meadow was anything to go by the environmental principles are working. As an arts centre though I’m not so sure. The space here was perhaps too small – just one barn – and the handful of images weren’t very well presented. Maybe on another day with another exhibition it might have been different. As for the garden, well I think it could be the real attraction here. James Alexander Sinclair’s design and plants work so well in the setting and I loved what was there. It was what wasn’t there that was the problem – I didn’t understand why there were so many patches of bare soil. It looked like some plants had died or that the garden hadn’t yet filled out. It seems that the garden was planted in 2010 so maybe it just needs a bit longer to become established. Kestle Barton could be such a fantastic place, I really hope it can just find that extra oomph to take it there.
Our next stop was The Potager Garden about 20 minutes from Falmouth, tucked away in amongst the creeks of the Helford River. I’d spotted this place a few years ago in a weekend newspaper but we had never got round to visiting. It was Wellyman who remembered that we weren’t too far away and it would be perfect for a spot of lunch. An abandoned nursery, glasshouses and grounds have been lovingly restored to provide an idyllic setting in which to eat, drink and relax. There were hammocks in shady corners, table tennis, and packs of cards and dominoes dotted about. You know those sorts of places where you feel like they can’t wait to get rid of you, well this wasn’t one of them – they actually want you to linger here. And what a place to while away a few hours. The plants which were once nursery stock have become established plants. Many were growing through their pots into the ground when the site was rediscovered after ten years of neglect. The idea has been to create gardens which are both attractive and productive and they’ve succeeded. I knew the food would be good but it was a real surprise that the gardens were so beautiful too.
I’d love to hear about your own off the beaten track garden discoveries.
Reblogged this on Linda's wildlife garden and commented:
Awesome and thank you for sharing have a blessed day
What a fabulously eclectic selection, and a great way to soften the process of going home. Love the scarecrow, and the shot of the JAS planting is tantalising, do you nput photos up on flickr by any chance? I’d love to see more – though perhaps not of the bare patches…
Thanks Janet. It’s one of the reasons why we like going down to Cornwall. We set off at 8pm on the final day after grabbing something to eat and can be home in time for bed. We went to Norfolk a few years ago and it was lovely but it took us all day to get home and we got stuck on the dreadful M25. We’d lost the relaxed holiday feeling somewhere in all the traffic.
I loved the scarecrow too. I’ve never really considered going on to flickr. Someone said I needed to be on Facebook and Pinterest recently but I just can’t keep up with it all. 😉 I do like Instagram but that’s partly because it’s so simple to do. I can email you some more of the images of Kestle Barton if you’d like?
Oooh, yes please to the photos! I know what you mean about all this social media malarkey, it can take over. I like flickr because it is a good way to back up photos, and to share them. Though I do only upload sporadically, because it all takes time, doesn’t it.
I’ll send them through. Hope they’re not an anti-climax. 😉
Something about the coast really brings out the colors, and plants always seem to grow a little more hardy and stout…. assuming they don’t die of salt! -and the glimpse of water makes it look like a beautiful road trip.
So the food was just good? Places such as that where you want to linger seem few and far between here in the hills of Pennsylvania, or involve several hours in the car. Nice that you could try out a couple and still be home for bedtime!
Thank you. We are lucky here in the UK that we don’t have to drive too far to see different scenery, styles of architecture or find great places to eat. 🙂
A most enjoyable post. They’re all places that I’d like to visit if I ever get to visit the area again. xx
Thanks Flighty. x
David Marsden said:
I haven’t been to Mousehole in almost thirty years, Lou. My family used to stay in a house next to the Minack theatre and I have plenty of memories of hot summer days pootling about. It might be time I went back. D
We’ve tended to holiday mostly in north Cornwall, around Padstow. We had such a fantastic few days around Mousehole though, we’ll definitely be back. Lou
If, when, we go to Cornwall these are definitely places I’d want to visit. We have just been to Norfolk for 10 days and loved every bit of it. We didn’t really have any finds, apart from the Key Lime pie at the Golden Fleece restaurant in Wells-Next-the-Sea, fantastic. Well, maybe the walled garden at Felbrigg Hall which has been turned into allotments, it was really interesting to see the different things the holders did on their plots in that lovely setting with all the wonderful old and new espaliered fruit trees along the walls.
I love the sound of the garden at Felbrigg Hall. I haven’t been there so I’ll add that to my list of places I might try and get to next year. Thanks for the tip. 🙂 Pleased to hear you had a great time in Norfolk. It is a fantastic part of the country.
Oh I enjoyed reading about your holiday in Cornwall WW – you certainly managed to pack a lot into a short spell. A garden with a welcoming hammock – simply brilliant! Not long back from holiday here and went through the similar agonies about how to keep plants ticking over when I’m not there to check them. I’ve way too many plants in my cold frame and spent the evening before departure panicking that the automatic watering device was not going to give them all enough to drink 🙂 Needless to say that they survived in my absence as did the seedlings passed on to friend to babysit, although she did indicate that she was glad to give them back to me.
Hi Anna, Yes we did pack a lot in. I thought it might not be so hectic and we’d just sit somewhere and read but once we were there we wanted to explore. I think we might need to start holidaying in winter. 😉 Hope you had a lovely holiday.
Hi Louise, what an awesome day out and I really should make time to go there when I’m in the UK next. I’m more into discovering hidden French gems these days as I hate to leave my own beautiful place so try and stay as close as I can. Hope your new book is coming on nicely. Enjoy your summer 🙂