The Lost Gardens of Heligan

Heligan, seat of the Tremayne family for more than 400 years, is one of the most mysterious estates in England. At the end of the nineteenth century its thousand acres were at their zenith, but only a few years later bramble and ivy were already drawing a green veil over this “Sleeping Beauty”. After decades of neglect, the devastating hurricane of 1990 should have consigned the Lost Gardens of Heligan to a footnote in history.

Instead, the romance of their decay took a hold on the owners imaginations. The discovery of a tiny room, buried under fallen masonry in the corner of one of the walled gardens, was to unlock the secret of their demise. A motto etched into the limestone walls in barely legible pencil still reads “Don’t come here to sleep or slumber” with the names of those who worked there signed under the date – August 1914. Fired by a magnificent obsession to bring these once glorious gardens back to life in every sense and to tell, for the first time, not tales of lords and ladies but of those “ordinary” people who had made these gardens great, before departing for the Great War.

With a large working team with its own vision for a second decade of renovation and garden design. The award-winning garden restoration is already internationally acclaimed; The lease now extends into well over 200 acres of the wider estate, leaving the project far from complete. Heligan will remain a living and working example of the best of past practice, offering public access into the heart of garden restoration.

The more contemporary focus is to work with nature, accepting and respecting it and protecting and enhancing the variety of habitats with which the project is endowed. An impressive range of wild flora and fauna has been identified within the gardens and estate, and visitors are welcome to explore the Heligan landscape to try and observe both common and rare species for themselves.

You may also wish to visit Horsemoor Hide, the pioneering Wildlife Interpretation Centre, where ‘Live’ images of Heligan wildlife are displayed on indoor plasma screens, drawing you into the dramas of life in the natural world in an intimate and unedited manner, as they occur. These privileged, close-up views of the life cycles of some of the creatures of the beautiful cornish countryside can offer valuable insights into the factors accounting for thier success or failure in the wild, thereby helping to evolve future land management practices.