The Lost Gardens of Heligan is probably the one of the most successful and greatest garden restoration project. Heligan Gardens is almost 200 acres and restored in a Victorian garden style. The Heligan Estate is managed using both historic and sustainable techniques. Keeping traditional breeds of animal and bringing age-old rural crafts back to life. Because of the mild Cornish climate all the plants here thrive, even the most exotic ones.
The Lost Gardens of Heligan is located in Pentewan, Saint Austell (PL26 6EN) in south Cornwall.
History of the Lost Gardens of Heligan
The Heligan estate was originally bought by the Tremaynes in the 16th century. Descendants of the Tremaynes family contributed to the gardens and it reached a size of where just before the First World War, employed 22 gardeners. However, 16 gardeners have died during the WW1 and Heligan was soon leased out. In the 1970’s the estate was converted into flats and sold without a garden. So the original landscape gardens was neglected and lost to sight.
Until derelict gardens discovered by Tim Smit and John Willis (Tremayne descendant) and so the restoration began. During 1992 Easter the restored gardens opened to public. In the 90’s the restoration work never stopped and it took years to complete it.
Just during half term when we were able to travel again after the national lockdown has been lifted. We went to Cornwall again and stayed in China Fleet Country Club again for it’s self catering so it was open, and we planned a day out in the Lost Gardens of Heligan. When I say a day, you really need a day to discover everything, or at least a good 4 hours.
We did have pre-booked tickets as at the moment that’s required. We also brought our picnic lunch with us – although a cafe the farm shop and even an ice cream shack were open along with the other services. There is a kitchen and bakery open normally.
We started our way down the Woodland Walk.
The Ancient Woodland
Home to the famous Heligan sculptures, the woodland walk is an awesome woodland playground for children as well: there are wooden structures, dens and nature itself to explore, climb and jump. I’t a bit like off road running around, jumping over tree trunks type of woodland walk, the children enjoyed this very much. And there are the famous sculptures of the Giant’s Head (it appeared to me as a cute hedgehog though, the Mud Maid and the Grey Lady.
After the Woodland Walk we went to the Jungle and Lost Valley, via the Fern Gully. These were my favourites, especially the Jungle – just so out of space and it has a rope bridge walk through!
The UK’s only outdoor Jungle has its own microclimate. In the middle of it, it’s at least 5 Celsius warmer then its surroundings. You can walk through the raised boardwalk and marvel the ponds, tropical plants and a very exotic scenery outdoor in the UK. It has a Burmese rope bridge – it say it’s the longest in Britain but the one in Eden Project is definitely hairier for me who has a fear of height. When we were there in mid April, the magnolias were in full bloom and we spotted a sea of wild garlic too. It was truly wonderful.
The Lost Valley
The bluebells were not out just when we visited but it’s meant to be a stunning view when they are in bloom. Stunning ponds, ancient woodlands to walk past and you can discover Heligan’s charcoal production: located deep in the Lost Valley, the estate produces charcoal. You can buy it in the Heligan Shop.
East Lawn Adventure Play Area
There is a large wooden structured playground area in a middle of a field, called East Lawn Adventure Play Area. It’s hot all sorts of climbing frames, slides, bouncy things for small and bigger kids. It’s got some picnic tables with benches scattered around so we had our packed picnic lunch here and the children darted off the play at the playground for at least 30-40 minutes.
From here, we then headed to see the Home Farm and its farm animals.
We really enjoyed the Home Farm and the animals. Some areas were closed off due to Covid restrictions but most of them are grazing outside. We got to see new lambs, baby goats, geese and more. Recently awarded Rare Breed Farm Park status by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, The Lost Gardens of Heligan are home to the first rare breeds park in the whole of the South West and one of just 23 in the United Kingdom!
In the entire estate; the woodlands as well as the farm, they use sustainable, low intensity techniques like the ones practiced in this area for centuries. The Home Farm is a huge area giving enough space to plants and animals in equal measures.
The Productive Gardens
Dedicated to the memory of all the gardeners Heligan lost to the First World War, this productive garden is also a Victorian garden; much like the other parts of the estate. For this reason they call it as a “living window to the past”, using traditional, Victorian methods of cultivation and horticultural practices, that are sustainable. Currently over 300 varieties of mostly heritage fruit, vegetable, salad and herbs are lovingly tended to supply the Heligan Kitchen with fresh, seasonal produce throughout the year. They are used in the cafe and restaurant menu as well. For those wanting to grow their own, the Heligan Shop offers an exclusive range of heritage seeds to buy.
The Pleasure Gardens
The Pleasure Gardens are over 200 years old; and, again based Victorian structures: featuring romantic elements of cute benches, pond with koi fish, majestic rhododendrons and palms. Amongst lots of other things. We enjoyed watching the fish and the view across the hedge by the Northern Summerhouse.