Cornwall Living 2018

Lost Gardens of Heligan

Heligan, seat of the Tremayne family for more than 400 years, is one of the most mysterious estates in England. At the end of the 19th Century its thousand acres were at its zenith, but only a few years after the Great War of 1914 – 1918 bramble and ivy were already drawing a green veil over this ‘Sleeping Beauty’.

After decades of neglect, restoration was commenced by a small band of enthusiasts. Heligan, voted “Best Heritage Site” by BBC Countryfile Magazine, now offers 200 acres open for the public to explore.

Heligan’s Victorian Productive Gardens are once again intensively cultivated throughout the year, growing over two hundred varieties of heritage fruit and vegetables. Thanks to the crop introductions by the plant hunters and the Victorian revolution in garden technology, pineapples, citrus, melons and peaches were home-grown for luxury consumption. Today, the Paxton glasshouses, cold frames and manure heated pineapple pit are also home to the same cornucopia of produce.

First laid out over 200 years ago, the Pleasure Grounds conceal an unusual series of romantic structures and unexpected features, including restored New Zealand and Italian gardens, summerhouses and pools, a superb pre-Jekyll herbaceous border, a rocky ravine, a crystal grotto and wishing well. A network of walks, lined by magnificent historic flowering shrubs, links these special places. Heligan’s ancient rhododendron and camellia collections are not much longer for this world, but as over mature specimens they hold an awesome and captivating grace.

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Heligan’s exuberant ‘Jungle’ garden hosts a riot of luxuriant foliage, sub-tropical plantings and specimen trees. Set in the micro-climate of a steep-sided valley, the boardwalk snakes down through bamboo tunnels, palm-lined avenues, around four ponds and a cascading stream, enticing you on a journey far from our temperate shores. Lose yourself amid almost pre-historic tree ferns, giant rhubarb, succulents and banana palms. Wander through woodland and farm walks through beautiful Cornish countryside, where sustainable management practices promote habitat conservation and an interactive Wildlife Interpretation Centre offering visitors a close-up view of native wildlife.

The variety of habitats throughout the gardens and estate provide a breadth of seasonal interest. This includes spring flowers, mosses and lichens, ferns and autumn fungi, as well as a considerable range of resident and visiting birds, owls, bats, butterflies and moths, insects, reptiles and small mammals.

Heligan is so much more than a garden restored; its own special atmosphere encourages exploration and contemplation, satisfying the broadest range of horticultural and wildlife interest.

The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Pentewan, St Austell, Cornwall, PL26 6EN 01726 845100