Story By Isobel Warren. Photos: Milan Chvostek
For such a skimpy sliver of Britain, Cornwall packs a hefty travel wallop.
Bordering Devon in southwest England, Cornwall is only about 40 km. across at its widest and 100 km. north to south. So just as the tourist board assured us, it should be a piece of Cornish pasty to see it all in a week.
But it wasn’t! Visiting Cornwall can be daunting, especially if its legendary weather is up to its old tricks. As we crawled through blinding rain, along roads the precise width of our car, rimmed by impenetrable hedges or high stone walls where instant waterfalls and deep pools hid who-knew-what menace, negotiating right-hand drive, stick shift and on-coming drivers confident that the road was wide enough for all of us (and it was!), we wondered often and aloud what in heaven’s name possessed us to visit Cornwall.
But then the sun came out. And we gloried in vistas of ocean, snowy beaches and cave-pocked cliffs, fields of sheep and horses, delightful villages where crooked streets led to centuries-old churches, quaint houses and occasional brooding castles. And gardens.
From Cornwall’s hundreds of gardens, we chose two – the mind-boggling Eden Project (www.EdenProject.com) and the Lost
Gardens of Heligan (www.heligan.com).
The genius behind Eden, Tom Smit honed his skills further south at Heligan, a wondrous reclamation of a typical 19th century garden. The Tremayne family held this vast estate for over 400 years but after World War I, during which 16 of its staff of 22 gardeners died, it fell into ruins.
Today, Heligan’s 300 acres boast myriad flower and vegetable gardens, an Italian garden and a jungle, a stand of aged rhododendrons, lovely woodland walks and greenhouses, a manure-warmed pineapple pit that actually produces fruit, and a wall of bee boles whose wooden-doored alcoves shelter skeps or hives that overwinter the bees and encourage pollination. An exceptional shop sells Heligan-grown products and souvenirs.