Exploring the Lost Gardens of Heligan: about 10 kilometres walking - Southwest England in April - CycleBlaze

April 10, 2014

Exploring the Lost Gardens of Heligan: about 10 kilometres walking

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Tommy made us a good breakfast—a nice variation on the full English, with scrambled eggs, cold meat, toast, yogurt and fruit. He gave us lots of information about the area and told us how to find the trail up to Heligan. We set off around 9:30 for the pleasant 3 km walk along the off-road foot/cycle path.

The Bacchus B&B in Mevagissey. Our room is behind the door on the right. The glassed-in breakfast room is on the left. Note the steep driveway going up past the house to the road.
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A steep part of the quiet bike/foot path from Mevagissey to the Lost Gardens of Heligan. Cycling would have been difficult due to several large muddy/watery sections that were a challenge to avoid.
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The Lost Gardens of Heligan were created by a wealthy Cornwall family over a period of time from the mid 18th to the early 20th century. The gardens included extensive ornamental and vegetable plots, as well as wilder areas with large sub-tropical plants and trees. They fell into decline after the first world war (16 of the 22 gardeners were killed) and were completely overgrown and lost to sight until the 1990s, when they were restored by a group of enthusiasts led by Tim Smit (who later started the Eden Project).

The restoration is very impressive, especially when you see the “before” photos, prominently posted in each garden area. The enormous rhododendron bushes, some more than 100 years old, were in full bloom, with brilliant crimson flowers. We were particularly interested in the edible gardens, which are planted and cultivated with traditional Victorian tools. We wandered around in a leisurely fashion, stopped for mid-morning tea in the “steward's house” and then lunch in the cafeteria.

Part of the impressive rhododendron forest at Heligan
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A small part of the well-tended vegetable garden
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Cold frames and the elaborate manure-heated pineapple shelter in a south-facing stone-walled compound
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In the afternoon we walked back downhill along the trail and into picturesque central Mevagissey, where we checked out the craft shops and the harbour with its fishing boats and long pier. We were told that Mevagissey and the other seaside villages of Cornwall used to be major destinations for vacationing Brits, before the days of cheap flights and package holidays to Spain and Greece. Tourists still come, but not in such great numbers as fifteen or twenty years ago.

The Mevagissey harbour and the small town centre beyond. Photo taken from the end of the pier.
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Our legs were tired when we returned to the B&B for showers and a rest. Dinner was at Salamander, the highest rated restaurant on TripAdvisor, and was very good. We had a scallop mousse starter followed by sea bass with lemon dill sauce, new potatoes and vegetables. Then up the hill one more time to the B&B and a good night's sleep.

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