Mr C and I decided to spend our wedding anniversary itself at The Lost Gardens of Heligan. Both of us had read about the gardens and seen them featured on various television programmes and as soon as we planned our trip to Cornwall it was obvious that we'd have to visit.
For those of you that aren't aware of the history of the gardens here is a very brief summary. The gardens were originally part of the Heligan estate owned by the Tremayne family. A team of gardeners were employed there, but many of them were called away to serve in the First World War. As a result of the majority of the gardeners being killed in the war the gardens fell into a state of neglect until they were discovered by Tom Smit and John Willis (a descendant of the Tremayne family) in 1990.
Since 1990 a huge amount of work and passion has gone into bringing the gardens up to the amazing standard that you see today. It's quite sobering to think that they lay undiscovered for so long, and that they could have been lost forever.
The day we attended the weather was absolutely perfect – hardly a cloud in the sky. We were also fortunate that as we were visiting in the "low" season there weren't too many people around.
Particular favourite areas of mine have to include the superbly organised potting shed and the vast vegetable garden.
The jungle also provided a good contrast to the formally set out areas in the northern gardens. To walk between the two areas the path took us along what is known as the woodland walk which is something of a traditional British woodland, but with some fantastic pieces of art by Susan and Peter Hill. My favourite had to be the Giant's Head – there was just something about the eyes that I particularly liked.
There was certainly plenty of wildlife for us to see at Heligan too. The Heligan Wild project has created a separate wildlife area as part of the gardens complete with an enlarged hide that contains screens showing live pictures form various cameras around the site. The Heligan wildlife made it into the press when it was featured in the BBC Springwatch series back in 2007. In particular was the sight on their cameras of one particular barn owl chick (since names Hannibal!) eating one of his siblings. As Springwatch was at the time trouncing Big Brother in the ratings, Bill Oddie made the comment "big brother eats little brother" and the press picked up on this instantly. Hannibal is still at Heligan and has now been joined by a mate. We were also lucky enough to see what we think was Hannibal flying across the site, in broad daylight, carrying what we think was a mouse. From what we understand it is likely that he was trying to create a stash of food as a means of encouraging his new partner to get broody – apparently that's what barn owls do. It was fantastic to see him flying like that – truly magical.
Not all the wildlife was part of their project though. The pond next to the northern summerhouse was also teeming with life. In addition to a large number of snails and beetles there were also several pairs of either frogs or toads mating. I have to admit to having no idea as to how to easily tell which they were, but I know that the sight of them all kept us fascinated for quite a while.
A fantastic day and a lovely way to spend our first wedding anniversary.