MARCH might not seem the ideal month for visiting National Trust gardens, but the mild(ish) climate in Cornwall put a visit to Glendurgan Garden near Mawnan Smith on the cards.
And this turned out to be well worth a trip, with the valley garden unfolding before our eyes as my partner Terry and I followed the trails downhill to Durgan village, and then back uphill to the sanctuary of the tea-house and plant centre.
Our visit got off to a cheerful start with the volunteer on the gate providing a warm welcome, a handy small map and directions for parking and entry. The young lady on the ticket desk was equally enthusiastic about our visit, and we set off on the trail with an air of expectation.
The garden comprises three valleys, and wandering through there are areas of planting for different species and different geographical regions – the NZ zone was particularly impressive with some spectacular Ponga (tree-ferns) and Rimu looking perfectly at home – plus plenty of seats for a quick breather, and new views around every corner.
There are also activities for young visitors, including the Giant’s Stride rope swing and a maze which will entertain adults as well as children, while the garden reaches the Helford River at Durgan village where there’s a small beach, plus refreshments from the Durgan Fish Cellar, where pilchards used to be stored.
Again, the friendly volunteers proved to be a real plus point at the Fish Cellar, with two ladies plying us with free tea and coffee (donations appreciated) and being happy to talk about the village and its history.
This is a sloping site so visitors need to be prepared to walk, but there’s a special route suitable for wheelchairs and pushchairs which avoids the steepest paths and steps. As befits a garden, there’s a great array of exotic plants from the Tulip tree (a real-life Whomping Willow) to the camellias, from the magnolias to the epiphytes growing on older trees, and not forgetting the banks of native wild flowers which will soon be coming into bloom.
And if your party have exhausted the possibilities of the maze, you can spend a while looking for wildlife in the pond opposite – we saw plenty of tadpoles and palmate newts – while the wooded areas are home to a myriad of birdlife.
Only assistance dogs are allowed in the garden, and people are encouraged to keep to the paths to preserve the wildflowers and other planting, but on a sunny day this has a lot to offer, with a full programme of garden tours plus seasonal events or simply the freedom to wander and enjoy.
Entry is free for National Trust members, of course, otherwise it costs £10 per adult and £5 per child although you can buy a family ticket for £25 or a one-adult family ticket for £15. The garden is open from Tuesday to Sunday, from 10.30am to 5.30pm, and there’s a tea-house serving Cornish produce, and a shop and plant centre.