Cornwall has a lot to thank the Gulf Stream for. We rarely have to scrape our cars in winter, for example. However, the best thing about our climate is the gardens it lets us grow. The combination of warm air, year-round mildness and let’s be honest, the generous rainfall results in some incredible planting, much of which would just not be possible elsewhere in the UK.
Thanks to this, Cornwall has an abundant crop of lush gardens to visit. Happily for us, and our guests, The Cornwall is very close to two of the county’s best and much-loved gardens – The Lost Gardens of Heligan and The Eden Project.
Heligan is a beautiful botanical garden with a fascinating mixture of kitchen and flower gardens, a subtropical “jungle”, as well as lakes and valleys teeming with wildlife.
The gardens were created mainly between the late eighteenth and early twentieth centuries by the Tremayne family, however the “gardenesque” style made up of areas with different designs is a popular Victorian fashion. Before the First World War, a team of 22 gardeners looked after Heligan, although sadly, only six of them survived the war. The house itself had been used as a convalescence home, and then was leased out before being used for war work again during the Second World War. Converted into flats in the 1970s, the separation of house and gardens was complete. Nature gradually took over the once-tended grounds.
In 1990, a descendant of the Tremayne family, John Willis inherited the estate. He and a group of friends (including Tim Smit, later behind The Eden Project fame), macheted their way through the thorns and weeds, Sleeping Beauty-style, to the heart of the gardens. They were moved by the romance of the place, showing glimpses of gardeners’ lives caught in a time capsule of sheds and greenhouses overgrown by trees and vines. They set about restoring the estate, and as a result, the garden has since been restored to unmask the captivating, natural beauty that grows around an enchanting story.
The Eden Project was born from the discovery of Heligan. While he was working on the restoration, Tim Smit became fascinated by the relationships between people and plants. A big story led to the desire to grow large plants in a considerable space. A former clay pit near St Austell became the perfect setting, and in 2001, after a lot of fundraising, a huge amount of work, and a good downpour of rain resulting in a lot more work, The Eden Project opened its famous biomes.
The Eden Project is now one of the South West’s major attractions. The Eden Sessions (a programme of live music) and the winter celebrations help to broaden both its audience and its season. Whatever the weather, Eden is a wonderful garden to visit.
We offer two Garden Breaks at The Cornwall, with both hotel-based and self-catering options. Both packages include tickets to The Gardens of Heligan and The Eden Project, as well as, of course, unlimited access to The Cornwall’s glorious grounds.
The Cornwall has its own wooded estate that tells its own romantic story. When the hotel took over The Estate in 2005, it too, was a wilderness. Landscape architects, conservationists and ecologists worked together to conserve and restore it original beauty whilst rebuilding the Estate; and when The Cornwall opened in 2010, the gardens were a major part of the hotel’s attraction.
In true fairytale fashion, a secret walled garden was uncovered, which is now a lovely place to relax and enjoy some fresh air. The Estate follows the pattern that was loved and admired by the Victorian garden designers that inspired Heligan: formal, walled gardens contrasting with magnificent large spaces, and in our case, acres of parkland and woodland.
As you can imagine, The Estate is a wonderful place for animals. You’re not the only ones enjoying the hospitality at The Cornwall – we have a colony of bats that live in their own “bat hotel” in the trees. We also have woodpeckers, grey herons, owls and badgers amidst our tailored wilderness.
Horticulturalist Gertrude Jekyll wrote of the “happiness that the love of a garden gives” – wandering around the found gardens of Heligan or simply admiring the view from our terrace, it’s easy to understand what she meant. In Cornwall, happiness is indeed a well-loved garden.