Lose yourself in The Lost Gardens of Heligan

April 12th, 2017

A majestic garden adventure in the heart of Cornwall awaits you on your retreat. Spend the day marvelling the plant life, spotting the animals and encountering the magical sculptures. Discover more about the critically-acclaimed gardens, located in Pentewan, close to St Austell, in this feature and why you should don your walking boots and explore this must-see place:

The history of the Lost Gardens of Heligan

Lost to the world after the First World War, it wasn’t until 1990 that the Gardens of Heligan were re-discovered under a tangle of weeds after the chance discovery of a door amongst the ruins by Tim Smit and John Willis, a descendant of the Tremayne family who had previously owned the estate. Fast-forward to the present day and the gardens have been gloriously restored, now being considered one of the finest gardens in the whole of the county! The 200 acres of garden evoke history, mystery and romance, attracting thousands of tourists year-after-year to marvel in the beauty of this award-winning garden.

Heligan was once a prestigious estate, home to the Tremayne family for more than 400 years. Towards the end of the nineteenth-century the thousands of acres were at their peak, however, only a few years later the brambles and ivy began to conceal the wonders of the Heligan grounds. It was only downhill from there, the outbreak of World War I commenced the beginning of the gardens falling to disarray, with many of the gardeners shipped off to fight in the war; many never to return, a story far too familiar for many of Britain’s estates around the war period. Around the gardens, there are homages to the gardeners who once put their blood, sweat and tears into creating and maintaining Heligan.

Unlike the rest of Britain’s estates, the Heligan estate was never sold or developed and it wasn’t until the 1970s that the house itself was sold to be split into apartments. Decay and neglect continued for the grounds, with a hurricane in 1990 creating another milestone for the Heligan grounds that should have cemented the disappearance of the gardens forever. However, with the discovery of a tiny room concealed in one of the walled gardens started the journey of restoration, unlocking the imagination of the founders. Etched in the limestone walls in light pencil marks read ‘Don’t come here to sleep or slumber’, alongside the names of all that has worked there, with the date August 1914. Fired by a passion for telling the stories of the everyday people who had once designed these magnificent gardens, the restorers at the Heligan estate tirelessly worked to bring the gardens back to their original brilliance like they had once been before the Great War.

Activities at the Lost Gardens of Heligan

If you’re lucky enough to spend your holidays in Cornwall during the spring, this is the perfect time to visit as you and your children will be able to get up close and personal to the new-born lambs and piglets at the Heligan nursery, just by the Shepard’s Meadow. This is a petting area for supervised children (as well as big kids!) that allows you to stroke the lovely farm animals.

A pleasant stroll around the many gardens, meadows and the ‘jungle’ will allow you to encounter a multitude of plant life. Many make a beeline for the jungle that is dotted with a beautiful array of vibrant flowers, exotic plant life and even a suspended bridge to clamber across, with many luscious ponds where you can spot a few fish leisurely swimming through the water.

Other main attractions include the enclosed gardens, including the Italian gardens that have an air of tranquillity; the herb and vegetable plots, along with the beautifully designed gardens with neat hedgerows and an array of interesting features.

Bird enthusiasts will enjoy the look-out, just off Shepherd’s Meadow, where you will have plenty of opportunities to spot an array of birds that enjoy the gardens. Keep your eyes peeled for the colourful woodpeckers that are regular visitors and read all about their studies and contributions to conservation projects. Be sure to tell the garden staff which birds you spotted by leaving them a note!

On your way through the gardens and forest areas, keep a look-out for the many sculptures that hide in amongst the plants and shrubbery, including the sleeping mud-maid that you must tip-toe past so you do not disturb her peaceful slumber.

The attraction includes lots of seating areas for you to enjoy the views, as well as two main cafe areas with an array of hot and cold food and beverages. You can even browse the shop and plant sales to find some keepsakes to bring home with you.

You will be given a map upon your entrance to the gardens to ensure you don’t get (too) lost. Entry prices can be found on the Lost Gardens of Heligan website, along with any events taking place around the time of your visit. Be sure to plan your trip well in advance to make sure you do not miss out on any of the upcoming exciting events taking place.

If you want to discover more activities and attractions in Cornwall, you should read our other blog posts. We have many helpful guides and suggestions that allow all your breaks in Cornwall, whatever the season, to be the most enjoyable staycation possible.