Wednesday, 20 April 2016

The Lost Gardens of Heligan


Heligan, in south Cornwall, was the home of the Tremayne family for over 400 years and in that time the family developed magnificent gardens both for their own pleasure and to produce fruit, vegetables and flowers for the household.  However, their downfall could never have been foretold.  Many of the gardeners who worked in the gardens went off to fight in WWI and few were to return. After the war the economy faltered and, like many great houses in that time, there was not the money to maintain the gardens in their former glory and they were left untended for nature to take over.  The house was sold in the 1970's and converted into flats and a hurricane in 1990 wreaked yet more havoc.

In 1990, Tim Smit and John Willis (a descendent of the Tremayne family) discovered a tiny room, an old thunder-box toilet, buried under fallen masonry in the corner of one of the walled gardens.  Written on the wall inside and still just visible was the date, August 1914 and the motto: “Don’t come here to sleep or slumber”.  Underneath were the names of the gardeners at that time, so many of whom were to have their lives cut tragically short. 

This discovery was to inspire Tim and John to restore the gardens to celebrate the lives of those who toiled to create and maintain them all those years ago.  The two had a vision to bring back the rare and wonderful plants that could flourish in the mild Cornish climate and of working with nature to enhance the variety of habitats found within its 200 acres.

I'll let you decide, through my pictures, whether you think they succeeded. 























11 comments :

  1. what a wonderful story!!!! i think they have done a splendid job and i hope it will just continue to get better with time

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    1. I have known about the gardens for many years but not the story behind them and that makes them even more special. I am so glad I finally got to visit them.

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  2. Ah this brings back memories of when we visited! Such a lovely place to spend a day - I spent a lot of my visit day dreaming that I lived there...

    Merci de vous joindre à nouveau! < mixing up the thanks!

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    1. Me too - it was my small army of gardeners tending that FABULOUS walled garden and me eating pineapples they had grown.

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  3. This is one garden I so so so want to visit! I was rather moved reading about the gardeners and the wall motto. Beautiful story and place.

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    1. Me too and it brought the original gardens alive before my eyes. So sad too.

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  4. that's huge green house, has it been built using the wall?

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    1. Yes - the greenhouses are against south facing walls I assume to get maximum warmth in the spring. There were loads of them for different crops and flowers. And all the cold frames. I am a real sucker for Victorian glasshouses so I was in my element.

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  5. This has been on my must see list for so long. Maybe this year I will get to visit #hdygg

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  6. We went to Cornwall about eight years ago and I was wowed by the Lost Gardens of Heligan. I have to admit the main reason I want to go back to Cornwall is to visit there again. Lovely to see it again and thriving as well.

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  7. I love Heligan and its story - so poignant - we've been twice but I'd still go again. Loved your pictures :)

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