In Cornwall recently on a family trip to walk some of the South West Coastal Path, we took a day off from walking to visit The Lost Gardens of Heligan.
Set near St Austell in Cornwall this is the family seat of the Tremayne family and until 25 years ago these historic gardens were unknown and unseen, lost under a tangle of weeds. Set in 200 acres this has all now been restored and is well worth a visit.
It isn’t cheap to get in (£14.50 each) and I have to say that it isn’t really disable-friendly. In fact I can remember taking my mother there many years ago and we could only access the cultivated gardens as it was too difficult to get her wheelchair down the Woodland Walk or through The Jungle gardens. It is absolutely ideal for families as there are numerous interesting things that would appeal to children. There is The Barn where they can pet animals, the East Lawn Play Space and Rope Swing, The Hide which is a lovely place to sit and watch the birds, the Insect Hotel and the Coin Log (an old fallen tree that has numerous penny coins pushed into it’s trunk.) My grandson spent quite a while pushing another penny into the softened bark.. and then spent even longer seeing if he could get any out! (He couldn’t!)
We wandered around the winding paths for most of the day. The Jungle is a sub tropical themed area where you walk through bamboo tunnels and under huge tree ferns. There is a rope bridge here which is fun and interesting to walk across (although we had to queue for quite a while as the line of people slowly traversed it.)
In the Northern Gardens, by Flora’s Green look for the ancient Douglas Fir on your right. The large dark green growth protruding from it’s trunk is known as a Witches Broom. A genetic mutation much prized amongst Bonsai enthusiasts.
Don’t miss the Sundial Gardens and The Northern Summerhouse (these are a couple of the cultivated areas where a wheelchair user would be accessible.)
There are 60 acres of traditionally managed woodland and along The Woodland Walk are iconic statues-The Giants Head, The Mud Maid and The Grey Lady.
There are pigs and Highland cattle and a nice restaurant.
It is very much a fair weather place as there is no ancestral house to explore but on a sunny day it is a wonderful place to take the family.