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24 September 2014
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The Magical Gardens of Heligan
The Jungle at Heligan
Tree Ferns in Heligan Gardens' Jungle

The magical beauty of Cornwall's Lost Gardens of Heligan can be enjoyed all year round.

Each season throws up new colours, sights and inspiration for visitors of all ages.

SEE ALSO
Other Uncovered stories
WEB LINKS
Heligan.com
This stylish site captures the 19th century romantic nature of these exotic Cornish gardens.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites.
HELIGAN FACTS

+ The house, built by William Tremayne in 1603, was the seat of the Tremayne family who controlled over 1000 acres in the area from Pentewan to Gorran.

+ The Heligan Estate was totally self sufficient. It had a number of quarries, woods, farms and even a brewery!

+ The male staff at Heligan's gardens all signed up with the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry when World War One broke out.

+ Only six of the 22 garden staff survived the battles of the World War to return to their jobs at Heligan.

+ In 1920 the house on the Heligan estate was rented out. The family who lived there were unable to maintain the vast gardens. They fell into disrepair.

+ It was in February 1990, that a meeting took place between John Willis, a Tremayne family member who had inherited the gardens, Tim Smit and John Nelson changed the history and direction of Heligan's gardens.

+ The restored gardens comprise of 80 acres of pleasure grounds and walled gardens as well as an impressive huge vegetable garden.

+ The Gardens, now known throughout the world, are open all year round.

The magical beauty of Cornwall's Lost Gardens of Heligan can be enjoyed all year round.

Each season throws up new colours, sights and inspiration for visitors of all ages.

Heligan in the sunshine
Sun Dial Garden at Heligan

The story of the gardens also has its own magic.

It was a team of enthusiasts lead by Tim Smit who unearthed the beauty which had been lost for several decades.

The gardens as they are today virtually mirror the original designs drawn up for Henry Hawkins Tremayne, the owner of the grounds in the late 18th Century.

Many of the staff who tended the original gardens at Heligan were called up to fight in the 1st World War. Over half never returned from the battle fields.

The house itself at Heligan was taken over by the War Department in 1916. It was used as an officer convalescence home.

Pineapple
Pineapple produced at Heligan

The years passed and eventually the house was sold as flats during the 1970s. The gardens which received such special attention from its dedicated gardeners before the 1st World War started to fall into disrepair.

They became heavily overgrown and the rare plants that were once the envy of many gardeners were hidden by the immense overgrowth.

It was in February 1990 when Tim Smit first hacked his way around Heligan. Despite the short days and low temperatures typical to that time of the year his enthusiasm was certainly not dampened.

Along with John Willis (who had recently inherited the gardens) Tim Smit was 'tantalised' by the chance to find out what had gone on at Heligan a few generations before.

Horticultural artefacts were discovered in the overgrowth and these were lovingly pieced together enabling the team to unearth the clues to the magic of Heligan.

Endless physical labour and accumulated experience associated with managing the soil and the seasons secured the previous glories of Heligan.

Lobbs Farm Shop
Lobbs Farm Shop at Heligan

The gardens may now no longer be 'lost' but the team at Heligan thrive themselves on reviving the 'lost' traditions which were associated with working them in their original glory days.

The initial worldwide interest in the gardens may have been as a result of the romantic appeal of the mystery surrounding Heligan. But the ongoing vast public interest in the estate proves the magic continues alongside the tireless work of the team at the gardens.

Heligan Now

It is well over a decade since the restoration of The Lost Gardens of Heligan started. As the seasons come and go the team review their progress and endeavour to continue the processes of discovery, reconstruction and development.

"Where it comes from, how it was produced and how it got to the plate are all key questions when looking at our food chain for which we are all accountable by nothing if not by choice alone."
Peter Stafford
Managing Director
Heligan Gardens

Several projects continue while new ones are created. The Heligan Home Farm Project endeavours to resurrect the old Cornish farming traditions once practised at Heligan.

'Heligan Outer Estate', recently opened to allow the public a chance to witness the herds grazing in their natural Cornish environment.

The important farming project also aims to educate and provide visitors with information about how the industry works today in Cornwall.

The Heligan Home Farm project is still in its infancy. Already it is attracting great interest from locals and holiday makers who tour the grounds and then sample the delights in Lobbs Farm Shop which aims to connect the consumer with the countryside.

"We are keen to preserve, conserve and enhance our farming environment and maintain this historic landscape for future generations," says Ian Lobb from the Farm Shop.

"We will also illustrate and describe to our customers the wealth of wildlife that thrives in our traditional Cornish countryside alongside the production of local food."

Winter at Heligan

The Winter months bring cool sunshine and dark shadows together to enhance Heligan's mysterious and magical atmosphere.

The team use the time to feed and nurture the Cornish soil. They prepare and clear out for the coming Spring. Whatever the time of year - Heligan never sleeps.

If you visit the gardens over the winter months there will be plenty to enjoy.

"Winter, a lingering season, is a time to gather golden moments, embark upon a sentimental journey, and enjoy every idle hour."
John Boswell

Northern Gardens will be the place for seaweed laying, double digging, planting of perennial herbs (sage, thyme, marjoram, rosemary, chives), manure heating of pineapple pits, planting of spring bulbs, weeding, clearing and garden maintenance.

Outer Estate - bramble clearance, tree surgery and re-planting

Jungle - Boardwalk maintenance and repair, pond dredging and clearing.

Winter Wildlife

With bare branches around, winter provides the perfect opportunity to observe Heligan's diveristy of bird life. Woodpeckers, nuthatches and the elusive kingfisher can be enjoyed in the woodlands. Winter migrants such as fieldfares and redwings can be viewed over the farmland.

Horsemoor Hide provides the perfect viewing point for grey wagtails, black caps, bramblings, greenfinches and much more.

Heligan Winter Events

Friday 5th December & Friday 12th December sees Heligan host its popular Christmas Feast Nights. Prior booking is essential for this experience. Tel: 01726 845100

Boxing Day and New Year's Day sees Heligan offering free admission to the gardens, with donations invited for Cornwall's First Air Ambulance.

Click here
to enter our Heligan Quiz

You could win one of two family packs of tickets and a Heligan Book!

 

 

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