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Europe » United Kingdom » England » Cornwall 12th June 2010 The Lost Gardens of Heligan near Mevagissey

sunny 20 °C

We found the gardens at Heligan quite easily - they weren’t lost after all!

What’s more, when we’d found them and paid to get in, they gave us a compass so we wouldn’t get lost while we were there.

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These terrific gardens were actually ‘lost’ once upon a time, of course. Neglected for decades and overgrown beyond belief, they were rescued and restored to their former glory. When they were unveiled to the public, The Times hailed it “the garden restoration of the century”. We’ve only seen the derelict gardens on TV (there were several programmes when the painstaking work was completed and the gardens were opened in 1992) but what can be seen today is certainly a remarkable transformation.

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Between 1770 and 1914, the 1,000 acre estate was developed by four generations of the Tremayne family. They created gardens, working buildings and huge greenhouses to provide everything needed for a well-off family living in Heligan House. Then came the First World War and the team of hard-working gardeners went off to give their all for king and country.

As the years passed, everything fell into decay, soon becoming hopelessly overgrown with brambles and weeds. Decades later, in 1990 to be precise, Heligan was rediscovered and work started to bring it back to its Victorian zenith. The Tremayne family still owns the whole estate but leases the gardens to Heligan Gardens Ltd. The big house remains private and isn't open to the public - indeed, it's so private that visitors wouldn't even know it was there!

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The Giant's Head

The Giant's Head

Twenty years on, the gardens have reached a stunning maturity once again. Today, a similar number of gardeners as were employed in Victorian times carefully tend the principal areas - very productive "Productive Gardens" and Victorian "Pleasure Grounds" that include rhododendrons from Sikkim, tree ferns from New Zealand, an Italian Garden and an Alpine-inspired Ravine. They manage the luxuriant sub-tropical Jungle and the woodlands of the wider estate, although these, having been judiciously pruned and cleared, are now largely a conservation area and haven for wildlife with boardwalks and steep paths enabling the energetic to visit them.

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We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to these gardens. They're sufficiently large for one to stroll around without constantly bumping into lots of other visitors (and there are lots, believe me!), yet not end up totally exhausted by the experience. We missed the best of the Spring display of pre-1920s rhododendrons and azaleas but the well-maintained borders and vegetable garden, swathes of healthy green foliage and clumps of bright flowers still made it very worthwhile.

I'll let the photographs show you more.

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Posted by Keep Smiling 10:30 Archived in England Tagged gardens flowers england cornwall

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