Lost Gardens of Heligan a real find in Cornwall
More than gardens, the Lost Gardens of Heligan are a botanical, archeological and historical wonder tucked onto a hillside surrounded by quaint English villages.
But make no mistake about it: Whether you are a fan of hiking, history, flowers, botany, mysteries, or stories of restoration, the Lost Gardens (www.heligan.com) are for you, kids and adults alike. The most riveting part of how these pristine, working gardens rose like a Phoenix from decades of neglect will fascinate you as it did us.
Lost Gardens of Heligan brief history
In sum: The 81-hectare (200-acre) garden area was first mentioned in the 12th century when the Manor was built. The Tremayne family purchased it in 1569, and it is still owned by the Tremayne estate. Over the centuries, gardens and structures were built, vegetable gardens and fruit orchards established, greenhouses constructed, and ponds and theme gardens designed. But the First World War was the beginning of the decline in 1914. It fell into total disrepair later in the century.
It wasn’t until 1990 that Tremayne heir John Willis brought businessman and Eden Project founder Tim Smit to the now-jungle. Foraging and bushwhacking, they discovered collapsed structures, overgrown fountains, and the remains of once-meticulous gardens. Historical sleuthing and research led them to photos that helped them piece together what the jungle once looked like to help them restore it as closely as possible to what it was.
The Times newspaper dubbed the restoration project “the garden restoration of the century,” and it indeed is. After years of repair and renovation (which continues to this day), management has done a wonderful job not only with presenting beautiful gardens but also highlighting educational opportunities. We loved the photos and stories in various areas that showed before and after, and discussed construction and restoration demands, plus any changes made to the original.
Of course, the Lost Gardens of Heligan can also be enjoyed just as gardens: They are an opportunity for a great walk and outdoors escape. Although on a beautiful day there are lots of people, there is a certain respect for Heligan that makes it possible to find quiet corners – or just to enjoy peace on a corner of a lawn, savoring the work that has returned these expansive gardens to a place of splendor.
Prices: Adults GBP 15 (about USD $19) with discounts for seniors, students and families. If you are going to be dropping in more than a couple of times, an annual “Friends of Heligan” pass at GBP 35 (about USD $44) is a deal.