The Lost Gardens of Heligan

· general ·

[The Great Escape, day two: written 12th August, 2005]

There's something romantic about the 'Lost' part isn't there? Even though The Lost Gardens of Heligan have the usual complement of car parks, gift shops and tea rooms, it still has the air of somewhere that might require a machete and a pith helmet to get into.

Heligan covers an enormous area (about 200 hectares in total), and there's a surprise around every corner. The Jungle and Lost Valley are a delight, with palms, bananas and giant gunnera crowding the jungle part of the valley, which has a sub-tropical micro-climate. It's warm, green and humid, and if it weren't for the hordes of other visitors and the carefully maintained boardwalks, you might believe yourself to be somewhere much more exotic than Cornwall.

In the end, I think that our favourite parts of the garden were those that we could imagine possibly recreating in some form. In particular, we loved the small Northern Summerhouse Garden, with its rectangular pond filled with water lilies and a gently trickling fountain. It is paved with slate and planted with casually-arranged terracotta pots. Benches at one end provide a wonderful view of the garden and of the sea beyond through a cleverly curved beech hedge. To one side, a cool and shady summerhouse has jasmine and orange climbing up it, which gives the air a heady scent. As Mr. Bsag and I sat on the bench in the afternoon sun, a pleasantly cool breeze drifting the scent of orange blossom around, we reflected that absolutely the only thing missing was a nicely chilled glass of white wine.