The Lost Gardens of Heligan, St Austell
Once a tangled forest of weeds, The Lost Gardens of Heligan near St Austell were almost entirely forgotten about. Brought back to life by Eden Project creator, Tim Smit, they are now home to a range of plants, trees and herbs including fruit and vegetable crops, camellias, rhododendrons, a sundial garden and a jungle garden.
A lovely day out for all the family, The Lost Gardens of Heligan have become a firm favourite for local residents and visitors alike.
THE HISTORY OF HELIGAN
Owned by the Tremayne family for more than 400 years, Heligan is a real-life secret garden. Left to its own devices when workers went off to serve in World War I, bramble and ivy began to take over until the gardens became unrecognisable. Decades of neglect later, a hurricane in 1990 led to the discovery of the lost gardens by Tim Smit and John Willis (a descendant of the Tremayne family).
Work began in earnest, beginning with the restoration of the Italian Garden in 1991. Heligan received Grant Aid from the Countryside Commission, and after the signing of the lease between the Tremayne Estate and Heligan Gardens Ltd in 1992, Heligan opened its doors to the public.
Many years of hard work followed, restoring the gardens to their former glory – including building a Summerhouse, Melon Yard and Pineapple Pit. In 1997, Heligan hosted The Centenary Spring Flower Show of Cornwall Garden Society, and the gardens were featured in two Channel 4 documentaries in the late 90s.
Since then, many books (both fictional and factual) have been published about Heligan, the gardens have featured on the BBC’s Springwatch, and have also been awarded several awards including Countryfile Magazine’s ‘Britain’s Finest Garden’ award in 2011 and Cornwall Today’s ‘Garden of the Year’ in 2013. Heligan’s most recent achievement is a Bronze Award at the Visit England Awards in 2015, the year when the first wedding was held in the gardens!
WHAT IS THERE TO SEE AND DO?
There are over 200 acres of garden and estate to explore at Heligan, with something to see in every season. The award-winning Victorian Productive Gardens are jam-packed with over 300 varieties of fruit, vegetables, herbs and salad, which are used daily in the garden’s café. In these gardens you can learn all about Victorian crop rotation, where today’s gardeners use the same techniques as the Estate’s Victorian gardeners used to. Children will love meeting Diggory the Scarecrow, whilst Mums and Dads go back in time with a visit to the Potting Shed and Thunderbox Room.
The Pleasure Grounds were first cultivated over 200 years ago, and feature many beautiful plants, flowers and structures. Here, you will find Maori-carved tree ferns of New Zealand, a National Collection of Camellias and Rhododendrons, a Summerhouse from the 1770s and a Sundial Garden buzzing with butterflies and bees.
The Jungle is home to tropical gardens, four ponds, giant rhubarb, bamboo, banana plantations, palms and one of the longest Burmese Rope Bridges in Britain! The Jungle has its own micro-climate thanks to its valley location and is a good 5 degrees warmer than the rest of the garden.
The wildlife at Heligan is as varied and well-loved as the plants; on your way round you may spot robins, kingfishers, blue tits and even badgers. There’s also an Insect Hotel, honeybee observation hive and a hide - from where you can watch live footage of the barn owl nests.
As well as carefully tended plants and flowers, Heligan also boasts ancient woodland. Here you will find the famous Heligan structures – the Giant’s Head, the Mud Maid and the Grey Lady – as well as charcoal kilns, wild flowers and beautiful ponds.
The farm has plenty of animals waiting to meet you, including Dexter cattle, Longwool sheep and Tamworth pigs. Heligan has a native black bee, and a Poultry Orchard which is home to chickens, ducks, geese and turkeys.
Finally, before you leave, don’t forget to visit the Kitchen and Bakery, where delicious, seasonal homemade meals (including barbecues in the summer) are offered, as well as cream teas, cooked breakfasts and winter stews by the fire. Heligan’s shop is also well worth a look, with a range of gifts, homeware, candles, books, toiletries, plants and charcoal made onsite.
Heligan is host to many an event each year, including an Easter Egg Hunt and summer performances by the Kneehigh Theatre.
OPENING TIMES AND ENTRY PRICES
The Lost Gardens of Heligan are open every day of the year except Christmas Day. Opening times vary depending on the time of year and daylight hours; please see Heligan's website for more details. Admission prices are as follows: