Tremenheere is Cornwall’s most exciting contemporary large-scale garden. Located in Gulval, close to Penzance in the south-western corner of the county you get a stunning distant view of St Michael’s Mount from the top of the slopes, where strawberries were once grown for sale in distant Covent Garden. Prior to 1290 the land at Tremenheere was owned by the monks of St Michael’s Mount.
In a beautiful sheltered valley, the woods, stream and dramatic vistas provide a perfect setting for large scale exotic and sub-tropical planting. Interwoven with this there is also an evolving programme of high quality contemporary art installations. Inspirational….contemplative… a joy to visit…
Now groups of bold sub-tropical plants amassed by Neil Armstrong greet you and it is easy to imagine yourself in one of the southern hemisphere gardens of Australia, New Zealand or South Africa. Armstrong also commissioned a handful of major art installations with the aim of creating ‘moments of wonder’. One is hidden deep in woodland, while a group of charred oak menhirs, eerily evoking a family struck by lightning, stands motionless in a circular dip, surrounded by ferns, natural vegetation and tall trees.
In Tremenheere Billy Wynter has created a camera obscura which provides a focus for one compartment in the gardens. Going inside the darkened room, one has to turn a handle and walk around a central table onto which images of plants and views are combined with light and movement. It is magical.
Perhaps the most striking is Skyscape, the American artist James Turrell’s celestial observatory stationed on a hilltop: from the circular bench inside you become mesmerised by the bright white walls and contrasting roof open to the weather – in this instance an azure blue sky that looked as though it had been painted on the ceiling. I can’t imagine what it must be like to watch clouds drifting across or even stars! I saw another of Turrell’s installations, ‘Skyspace‘, in Canberra last December. He certainly gets around!
Planting is mostly structural, continuing the sculptural theme; New Zealand phormiums dominate the hillside; succulents and agaves; South African fynbos, aloes, proteas and restios, sedges and grasses in the arid zone. Bamboos, tree ferns, mahonias and exotic shade plants in the swampy bogs and pond areas.
The garden, built on a slope and therefore not fully accessible to wheelchairs or push-chairs, does have plenty of seating areas where you can take the weight off your feet, rest a while, admire the views and which provide a place of contemplation and wonder.