Monday, 24 March 2014

The Lost Gardens of Heligan & Calmer Days at Mevagissey


With the onset of WWl many of the staff that ran and maintained the Cornish estate and gardens at Heligan were called to serve their country. The majority of them never to return.
The gardens disappeared beneath a thin green shroud, but over the next 70 years they slipped into a deep sleep and completely vanished under a dense thicket of thorny brambles, scrubby trees and ivy.
In 1990 two brave souls pushed open the door to the gardens and began restoration work on a shoe-string budget. In 1992 they opened the gardens to the public whilst it was still a work in progress, and gradually over the next, almost 25 years, the Lost Gardens of Heligan awoke.
Part of the National Collection of Camellias & Rhododendrons at Heligan
The giant's head - a living sculpture in the woodland walk - the hair is Crocosmia - it will have a mass of orange flowers when the summer arrives.
The sleeping mud maiden - next month she will look splendid, completely surrounded by a thick blanket of English bluebells
Kniphofia - red hot poker, torch lily
There are 18 gardens that lie along the southern coastal stretch of Cornwall which collectively are known as "The Great Gardens of Cornwall". Plants from around the globe flourish in the sheltered coastal inlet gardens with their own warm micro climate. 
Gunnera manicata unfolding its giant leaves. We tried to grow this in our garden but our ground is too dry. In other areas of the country it requires covering with a straw or fleece blanket to survive the winter, but not here.
Heligan's Jungle Garden
 (awful photo)
Dicksonia antarctica tree ferns
A newly emerging Tree Fern frond
Anemone coronaria planted en masse
The walled garden being prepared to receive its summer flowering plants
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The Lost Gardens of Heligan lie close to the coastal port of Mevagissey which suffered huge damaging waves during the storms at the beginning of February this year. After leaving Heligan we called in to see how it was recovering.
Around the little port all appeared to be relaxed and peaceful again....
..... but if you look closely at this last photo you can see an arrow pointing to construction work being carried out to repair the very badly damaged inner harbour wall.

66 comments:

  1. The garden is very fascinating, and I can imagine it must be a picture in the summer as you described.
    I do love the Port photos as well, such tiny windows in those accommodation places.

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    1. Most of the properties would have belonged to fisherman in days gone by - many are now holiday lets.

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  2. Nature's beauty is boundless, and I love what those diligent gardeners have salvaged and created in that magnificent garden! And such a beautiful fiddlehead, one of my favourite young plants.

    All those houses so close to the harbour wall, it must have been quite frightening living through those terrible winter storms! Let's hope for less violent ones in the future!

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    1. The little port has a series of large stone defensive walls out to sea which are supposed to protect the actually harbour itself, but the sea surged through and over them all, and as you can see damaged the harbour wall. It must have been frightening, but people flew into the UK from all over the world in order to ride the waves. I am sure you can imagine how very dangerous their behaviour was.

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  3. We went to Heligan some years ago now, it looks as though it has only gone from strength to strength, perhaps another visit is needed to see those great sculptures if nothing else. Thanks for showing us these Rosemary. xx

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    1. It is a good many years since we too visited Amy - it has certainly matured and become a whole now.

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  4. what a wonderful garden. I am so glad it has been found. I love the living sculptures.

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    1. The living sculptures are lovely - I am sure that it would be possible to recreate something similar in our own gardens.

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  5. I remember the excitement when Heligan was first discovered - I can't believe it was so long ago. I have watched various tv programmes about its restoration - maybe one day I will be able to visit.

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    1. I recall that series too - doesn't the time fly by? We visited when it was fairly new, and it has definitely matured and become established now.

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  6. We got as far as the entrance back in January, then the rain came teeming down. Strategic withdrawal until May! I'm looking forward to seeing it, especially having now had a glimpse through your photographs.

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    1. The rain probably did you a good turn Jessica, I am sure you will enjoy it much more in May.

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  7. Hello Rosemary, So often when a building or garden has fallen to neglect, that is used as an excuse to eliminate or drastically modernize it. How nice that at Heligan, they took the other viewpoint, to restore the beauty that had been there before.
    --Jim

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    1. Hello Jim - A major result of the restoration was that many lost Rhododendrons and Camellias species were rediscovered and that is why they now hold one of the National Collections.
      The glasshouses have all been restored - they have a Melon House, a Pineapple Pit, a Vinery, a Banana House, a Citrus House, and a Peach House.

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  8. Absolutely wonderful photos, as usual. They made me think that I MUST get to the lost gardens. I have wanted to go ever since reading the original book. And that mud maiden is fabulous - what a photo of her head!
    Cornwall is so difficult to get to to someone like me who hates driving and finds it stressful. But of course that is part of its charm. Must go there and do some hiking

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    1. Cornwall is a difficult place to reach from the SE I know from when we lived in Hertfordshire. We can now travel down the M5 very quickly to Exeter.
      You must try and visit at some time, but when the children are still in school.

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  9. Amazing micro climate there that allows rather exotic plants to thrive. Love the collage of the different Camellias, such pretty flowers. I saw Camellias on another blog today already. Must be the their blooming period now. Unfortunately they can't survive here, think they like the micro climate very much as well.
    My favorite picture is the one with the Anemones.So many of them together in an array of colours, just so joyful.
    Marian

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    1. The Anemones looked lovely - I understand that they cut them for the tables in their restaurant.
      Camellias do better in a warmer climate, frost can destroy their petals which often happens because they flower now. They particularly flourish in acidic soil with is very humus rich. They do not flower or do well in chalk or alkaline soil.

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  10. Oooh - I've heard about this garden.....look forward to a visit! Actually I've never been to Cornwall, so will need to do some planning. We were just in England....visited Bosham, Chichester, Emsworth and Portsmouth. The weather was fantastic, Rosemary. We did see some flooding in some villages and towns.

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    1. Glad you had a good trip Loi - the weather was very mild in Cornwall. Cornwall is a good place to visit if you want to see lots of gardens and NT properties.

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  11. We must visit Cornwall this year - I've never visited my cousin in Mevagissey. It looks beautiful despite the storms.

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    1. If you live on the east side of England I always think that Cornwall is not that easy to reach - its a long journey, but hope that you make it.

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  12. Splendid garden and what a recovery story! When I go to England again Cornwall is high on my must-see places. I haven't heard of this garden so thank you for allowing a visit inside.

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    1. I do hope that you have the opportunity to visit a some stage Sanda - if visiting Cornwall it is worth including several of the other gardens nearby - I will be showing a couple more.

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  13. A spectacular garden really worth visiting...set in such idyllic surroundings !

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    1. The settings, it is true, make them special.

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  14. Lovely Heligan, such a magical place. So nice to see that the maiden and the giant are waking from their winter slumber.

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    1. I saw the maiden and the giant when they were very new - they have now settled in much better to the habitat of the woods.

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  15. I remember the television documentary about the lost gardens at Heligan and have always wanted to visit. Perhaps one day? Glad things are a little better in Mevagissey as seeing the state of the harbour earlier in the year on the television news, the damage to small boats with disruption to local fishing and businesses was distressing.

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    1. I think that we all remember that series Linda, it was so inspirational, and I am sure help lead to its continued success.

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  16. A fascinating story about the lost gardens, Rosemary. I have never heard of them, and love the idea that it was all rediscovered and restored. The mud maiden is great, so much fun. And there I see tree ferns, just like the one outside my back door! I have never imagined them growing in England, so indeed there must be a warm micro-climate in that little nook. Great photos of the port, too. I am glad the boats all seem to have survived.

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    1. Dear Patricia - there are quite a lot of gardens here with Tree Ferns, but further north we have to cover them with sacking and fleece for the winter months, unlike Cornwall where they can survive unadorned.

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  17. I've loved seeing Heligan again in your photos, I haven't been for several years and I've never visited at this time of year. I've always visited in May so it is interesting to see it in early spring. The story is so fascinating and it really has been beautifully developed over the past 20 years or so. I haven't been to Mevagissey for a few years either, I hope it is recovering well from the storms.

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    1. It is many years since I lasted visited Heligan too Wendy, so it was lovely to make a return visit to see how it has developed in the intervening years.

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  18. It is almost heart-breaking to see such beautiful places slip into ruin, but I'm glad for happy endings. I am charmed by the stone and flower giants, especially the sleeping lady. I imagine that you must come away from such tours with all sorts of ideas for your own beautiful garden. Do you keep a gardening journal?

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    1. I did find many of these gardens inspirational when we were planning our own garden, but now our biggest task is trying to maintain it. I don't keep a journal, just photos, which are interesting to look back on.

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  19. Oh Rosemary....that was awesome!
    Such beautiful lush gardens...especially when I look out the window and see....SNOW!
    Those "people" are fantastic...would love to see it in real life!
    You must go back, and take pictures of them in bloom!
    That Port reminds me of Doc Martin....LOVE that show!
    Well...I am sure your brother has told you...we are still in Winter here...I assume he is back from Florida?
    Perhaps next year you can join him!
    Happy Gardening....
    Cheers!
    Linda :o)

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    1. I must admit Linda that I have never watched Doc Martin, but you are spot on with the location. It is filmed in Port Isaac which is in Cornwall too and just a few miles away from Mevagissey.
      My brother is still enjoying his sojourn on Anna Maria Island, I don't think he is returning until April - hope the snow has left by then or else he and his wife will be really fed up.
      We have holidayed with them on Anna Maria Island several times but the journey from here seemed to grow longer each year for us.

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  20. The two brave souls, have brought history back to life again. For the people of the village and of Cornwall.
    I was only looking a few days ago at little villages in Cornwall. I went there as a very young girl with my parents.
    They have done wonders to the old forgotten place.
    The gardens look beautiful and the flowers just to die for.
    What a great historic place to visit Rosemary.
    val xxxx

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    1. Dear Val we had a wonderful time and saw lots of interesting places and gardens. It is a good job we got ourselves fit before we set off as most of the gardens are very steep and long.

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  21. It is so brave that two people made this hard job and they gave a life to those lost gardens ! Beautiful photos ,as always and your description is perfectly understandable and enjoyable for me ! Thank you for sharing the history of these gardens !

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    1. Thank you Olympia - I appreciate the fact that you both understood the post and enjoyed it too.
      The garden really must have been a huge challenge, but they rose to it and succeeded.

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  22. The colourful houses of Mevagissey look similar to the ones along the coastline of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. I was thinking of visiting Heligan. Is it still a peaceful place? I like to think the ghosts of the young gardeners can walk the grounds.

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    1. That is a nice thought Susan - I am sure that they do and are happy with what they see. If you want to visit then it is probably best to visit when the children are still in school - it was very quiet when we were visited, but in the summer holidays I can imagine it being busy. However, it is a very big garden.

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  23. It's such a beautiful garden Rosemary! My husband, daughters and I visited years ago. It must have in 1998. We were really impressed by the work that was done. At times it felt like walking through a tropical rain forest :-) Still have fond memories of it. We liked Mevagissy very much too. I can remember eating a sandwich on the cob, while enjoying the sea-view. Absolutely delightful!

    Have a lovely evening!

    Madelief x

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    1. Dear Madelief - I am delighted that this post has bought back happy and precious family memories to you. I think that the garden has now become of age, and is maturing very well.

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  24. Dear Rosemary,such beautiful garden!Mevagissy is a lovely port to visit!I like the colorful anemones!Our area is full of red anemones!Wish you a lovely week!
    Dimi...

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    1. I remember that you showed us your wonderful red anemones 'dancing in the sun' and they looked spectacular.
      Hope you have a good week too Dimi.

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  25. Wauw...what a amazing sculpture's in the ground.
    Have a nice Week.

    Greetings,
    Inge, my choice

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    1. Dear Inge - the living sculptures are maturing really well especially now that they have plants successfully growing all over them.
      Have a lovely week Inge.

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  26. We should be down in Sennen Cove right now, but had to cancel due to husband not well. Have never been to Heligan but really want to go. Would also recommend Tregwainton NT Gardens in Penzance.

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    1. Sorry to learn about your husband - do hope that he is making good progress.
      We returned last weekend - stayed quite near Heligan, normally we stay at Carbis Bay.
      Sennen Cove was my inlaws favourite place.

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  27. I remember have read about these gradens in "Swenglish home" an English blog, several months ago.I was so impressed and I'm still now because I think is something unique, so particularly beautiful.And the little harbour, just magical!
    Warm regrads from me,
    Oly

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    1. Hello Olympia - I have just taken a peek at the blog you mentioned, it is always interesting to see another interpretation of the same place. Her jungle photo is far, far superior to mine. Alas she seems to have stopped blogging at the moment, but also I noticed that she lives just down the road from me.
      The garden is an interesting story, and it is lovely that it has come back to life for people to enjoy.
      Thank you for visit, and kind comment.

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  28. Dear Rosemary,
    The Lost Gardens: beautiful! As to Mevagissey: you opened a travel in time for me. I have been there with my sister (she studied for a while in Nottingham) and we travelled a bit. From M. I remember especially the loud cries of the giant seagulls and eating sort of little sea snail out of a paper bag, you got them out of their sort of shell with a pin. So long ago... almost forgotten... a summer when myriads of ladybirds coloured the beach sides red.

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    1. Dear Britta - Can you imagine how wonderful a myriad of ladybirds would look with todays digital photos?
      I know exactly what you were eating with a pin, they are called winkles. You only see them occasionally these days. My husband used to love them - when we holidayed in Devon he would collect them from the rocks on the beach, bring them back and boil them ready to eat - not me they are not my cup of tea.

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  29. It has been many years since we went to Heligan, I would love to return one day. Thank you for sharing your trip. X

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    1. It is the first time that I have been back for many years and I was pleased to see that the garden is maturing gracefully.

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  30. Hi Rosemary, how wonderful that some people had the guts to restore the Lost Gardens of Heligan, especially if they did it on a shoe string budget. I always believe, that when you are passionate about something you can move mountains and in this case they obviously did!
    Love your photos of the dicksonia antarctica tree ferns and the gunnera. Inspired from our trips to England we planted a gunnera, too, but it died within two years in our garden. I guess, also because the soil was too dry. Too bad, I really liked this plant! Wishing you a nice rest of the week!
    Christina

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    1. The Gunnera are spectacular, especially when you see them growing en masse. I have tried to grow several of these exotics but for a start they tend not like our alkaline soil which also dries out very quickly - they prefer a loamy, peat soil. I now tend to stick with what I know is happy growing with us.

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  31. Hello, Rosemary. Isn’t it so wonderful that the abandoned secret garden got revitalized from its long sleep and came to be enjoyed by the people? I enjoyed exploring with you immensely but I was astounded by the kind of eerie giant’s head (especially his eye-balls) and the sleeping maiden. I wonder if they are part of British humor?

    Yoko

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    1. Dear Yoko - I don't know whether or not they are part of British humour or not as I have not encountered living sculptures quite like these before. However, it is true that they were designed by a couple of Brits within an English garden!!! The nearest I have seen to them could be the Sacro Bosco, or Sacred Wood - a witty mannerist garden in Italy dating back to the mid 16th century.

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  32. Thanks for a lovely post. We went to Mevagissey last year for a quick walk around on our way back from a day out to the Lizard, I think....it's not as pretty as Brixham :)

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    1. I am ashamed to say but I have never been to Brixham, but I can well understand that you are right. I think that Mevagissey is very much a fisherman's port and not really prettified.

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  33. I enjoyed watching the Lost Gardens of Heligan when it was first shown on TV. We found it just as magical when we visited it one summer. It was lovely to see your pictures of it too. Sarah x

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    1. Doesn't time pass - that TV programme was nearly 25 years ago.

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