Playing with loaded weather dice, also known as booking a UK mini-break in early March, my favourite Australian and I left London behind for a long Cornwall weekend roadtripping through the old haunts of Pirates and smugglers.
We had both eyed up the beautiful scenery, cozy thatched cottages and wild beaches of the Cornish coast often enough to each have a wishlist – and at the top of mine was visiting amazing sculpture of a sleeping goddess entitled ‘Mud Maid’, nestled amongst the boughs of The Lost Gardens of Heligan.
We began with a sustaining (or so we told ourselves) Cream Tea in the cozy café, before venturing into the March winds. Twenty five years ago The Lost Gardens of Heligan were rediscovered from the brambles of time.
These thousand acres or so near Mevagissey in Cornwall, are one of the most popular botanical gardens in the UK. We learnt as we walked how the gardens are typical of the 19th century Gardenesque style with areas of different character and in different design styles.
“In the spring I have counted one hundred and thirty-six different kinds of weather inside of four and twenty hours.” ~Mark Twain
The Lost Gardens of Heligan (Cornish: Lowarth Helygen, meaning “willow tree garden”) were created by members of the Cornish Tremayne family from the mid-18th century to the beginning of the 20th century, and still form part of the family’s Heligan estate. The gardens were neglected after the First World War and restored only in the 1990s, a restoration that was the subject of several popular television programmes and books.
I had every intention of writing a ‘top tips for visiting the Lost Gardens, but honestly, the best advice I can give is just to wander where your curiosity takes you. Duck through arbors, investigate pathways and wear sturdy shoes for crossing the rope bridge (or do what I did and take the long, steep path around).
Every corner seemed to reveal another little nook we wanted to explore.
The secret garden, the birdwatching hide,
But, I think our favourite corners (beautiful statues aside) were the magnolia blossoms near the Witches’ Broom…
…the pineapple pits where pineapples are grown in the heat naturally caused by compost…
…and the Thunderbox room (er, the loo which shall never ever be known as a loo in our house ever again) the discovery of which sparked the conservation project which revitalised the Gardens. Sadly many of the gardeners set off to World War Two, never to return, hence losing the garden. Their memories are immortalised here in a sweet memorial.
Oh, and meet Diggory, the Scarecrow – his is an old Cornish name thought to derive from an Anglicized form of Degare, and may mean ‘lost one’. #CoughHarryPotterCough
We played spot the sculpture…
….found a little slice of New Zealand – which I obviously dragged the Australian through ;)…
…and even found the end of the rainbow. Which had a horse rather a pot of gold, but she was super sweet.
“It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.” ~Charles Dickens, Great Expectations
Actually, we did have one STRONG recommendation. If driving from a southern city in Cornwall, ignore your SatNav and drive to St Austell, before following the brown tourist signs. We ended up winding through teeny tiny little countrylanes which almost turned my teetotal friend to drink.
“Spring makes its own statement, so loud and clear that the gardener seems to be only one of the instruments, not the composer.” ~Geoffrey B. Charlesworth
Was it worth it? Totally.