Lost Gardens of Heligan,
PL26 6EN ,
Tel: 01726 845 100
The third day of our action packed week out there in Cornwall had us heading to the Lost Gardens of Heligan. In a previous Cornish holiday, last century when children were small, the Lost Gardens of Heligan were newly discovered and just being uncovered like some fabled treasure. Although that too was an action packed holiday, we never quite found the gardens ourselves. So one of the main objectives of this vacation out there was to learn what had become of them. Finding the Lost Gardens of Heligan now is quite easy. From St Austell head towards Mevigissey and it soon seems that all roads lead to the Lost Gardens, just follow the brown signs.
Any preconceptions we may have had, of a tucked away secret garden, were quickly dispelled by the size of the car park, enough for hundreds of cars of which there is ample blue badge parking close to the gardens' entrance. The gardens themselves apparently cover over 200 acres .. which is a lot! So we had a full day in front of us!
From the tarmac car park to the reception is a short distance. Here as we acquired our tickets we also received a map for our adventure with some advice about where Titania would experience difficulties. Namely the route down to the Jungle is steep so we would not be likely to get down there. The map is clearly marked “steep” or “very steep” on the paths which wend down to there. Of course in the interests of Access Out There we decided see how far we could get and set off down the Woodland walk.
It is well worth doing this especially if you want to see the mud sculptures of the Giants Head and the Mud Maid. The path is a wide well worn woodland path, occasionally rutted with roots, and dotted with stones trying to trip up Titania, but with her freewheel attached she enjoyed the excursion. Beyond the Mud Maid you can see the Grey Lady .. I’m sure at a leafier time of year she would have been easier to spot, but eventually we could discern the shape of the lady so she really is there. After leaving the Grey Lady the path divides. Both lead to the Jungle. On the map the left hand path is marked as becoming steep very quickly, the longer Georgian Ride is a gentler slope down towards great views over Mevagissey.
The path did get a bit stonier and very definitely began to descend. When the view was at its best we could see the path going down the hill more rapidly. Paraphrasing the old saying .. “what goes down must come up”, we knew it was time for Titania to stop the downward element of our journey. We split into two groups. Gypsy took Maggi and Jim onwards down to the Jungle, while Di and I took Titania to retrace our steps back to the entrance and on to the more formal gardens. We would all meet again at the Hide.
We went back up the track towards the ticket office but turned right before we got there, across a little road and into the Northern Gardens and were soon wandering the paths of the Pleasure Grounds. These paths were pretty good for Titania, generally flat and not gravelly. The paths are bordered by huge rhododendrons (at the right time of year there must be a stunning floral display from these). There were a couple of places where their roots crossed the path in an attempt to trip up Titania and there was also a short section of cobbles which could have been problematical but she coped well and there were alternative routes to the cobbles had they been a real problem. A little further down the path a sign reading New Zealand tempted us off-piste into a narrow bark chip covered track. This led us into a Maori forest with beautiful tree ferns. It wasn’t an easy path for Titania, but with a little extra effort we enjoyed it.
We soon found ourselves back on the more manageable main route of the Eastern Ride. From here we went left along Orchard Walk, past the farm animals - ginger haired pigs with cute piglets, geese, sheep and a fine friendly horse.
The route became a little stonier, but with few problems we followed it down to the Hide, which turned out to be a building showing what you can expect to see in the countryside around. It did have windows to sit at and watch the bird life around the pond on the other side of the building. The windows were low enough and the benches were moveable so it was possible to clear a space next to the window to get Titania into a position for Richard to get a good view.
Gypsy and the others found us somewhere near the Hide and the reunited group decided it was time for a little spot of something before working our way through the rest of the gardens. We retreated back to the tearoom near the entrance. Here we found a good range of food (the homemade soup took our fancy) and in the nearby picnic area were tables that Titania could get next to and Gypsy could get under. So suitably refuelled we went off to find the flower gardens and then the productive gardens.
The paths in the walled flower gardens are mostly brick paved and wide. They are formally laid out around a central pond. Because of the time of year there wasn’t a lot in flower in the garden although there were asters and dahlias and plenty of great foliage plants to see.
We left the flower gardens and walked through more of the magnificent rhododendron woods ducking under their boughs as they reached across the paths. Eventually we made it to the productive gardens.
We first found ourselves in another walled area in which were large cold frames which were full of young plants waiting to being planted out into the main gardens. Espalier fruit trees adorned fences and walls. Through a gateway in the wall we were led into the impressive vegetable gardens.
The vegetable gardens were in another large walled area with wide easy paths, the beds showing ranks of perfect vegetables unbothered by caterpillars or slugs, just as you wish your own garden looked like. There was a lot to see here, and as we went round we did find some of the paths were a bit narrow as seats formed an obstacle course especially if they were occupied. Fortunately the kind, patient people who had been sitting there were happy to stand to let Titania pass.
After the vegetable gardens we made our way gently back through the gardens towards the tearoom and shop. Although Titania and Richard had not been able to get down to the Jungle there was a video which we were able to watch which gave some idea of what had been missed down there. We had spent several hours walking around Heligan, and must have covered a few miles in our round-about routes, even so we didn’t see all of it. It had been a great day out there. We had found the Lost Gardens and thoroughly enjoyed them.
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Richard & Di
4th October 2016