Garden Portrait: The Lost Gardens of Heligan Part II

The second part of this walk in The Lost Gardens of Heligan starts with the sheltered Woodland Walk where we will discover the mud sculptures of  The Giant’s Head and Mud Maid, and the more recent Grey Lady.

The Woodland Walk begins outside the ticket office and is a pleasant and fairly level walk past the sculptures.


In 1998 Cornish artists Sue and Pete Hill were commissioned by Heligan to create two imaginative living sculptures along Woodland Walk. Wanting to use an enormous tree stump exposed following the Great Storm of 1990 it became the skull of the sculpture. Mind Your Own Business was planted for the skin and Montbretia is used for the spiky hair. His eyes are chips of china and glass found on site.

Continue down the pathway dappled in the sunshine to find the Mud Maid (above) and the Grey Lady. A much less substantial presence as she hides amongst the trees, planted with wild roses, to give an evocative fairy-tale look. The Grey Lady was named after a myth about a mysterious grey figure who was seen disappearing away from the main house.

The Mud Maid has a custom built hollow timber framework and windbreak netting. Her hands and face are a mixture of mud, cement and sand originally coated in yoghurt to set lichens growing. Her head is planted with Woodsedge and Montbretia and ivy has been trained to clothe her. In late spring when the trees are fully in leaf, shafts of sunlight strike drifts of bluebells and the birdsong lulls her to sleep. (from the sculpture information plaques)

At the end of the Woodland Walk where you will find the Grey Lady, the path divides, continuing to the Jungle or right along Georgian Ride to the Lost Valley. Not having time to do everything in one day, we opted for the Jungle.

The Grey Lady

At the junction there is a marvellous view of Mevagissey and the sea and  the sign for the Georgian Ride, which had absolutely no influence on our decision.


Anyway, the Jungle was a good choice. Created in a steep-sided south-facing valley garden you find a riot of luscious, exotic and architectural plantings from around the world. A raised boardwalk leads around four ponds, under tree ferns, giant rhubarb, bananas and towering palms.  Source: Heligan leaflet and website

(click on an image to scroll through the gallery)

Leaving the Jungle with time running out before the gardens closed we continued past the East Lawn, around the Steward’s House where there is another tea-room, sadly closed at this time, and back into the main gardens to the exit.

I hope you have enjoyed this walk. And if you enjoy walking, whether in a garden or alongside a river, or by the coast then join Jo’s Monday Walks where you are in for further treats, or where you can share your walk with us.

Click here to see the first part of this walk.

Garden Portrait: The Lost Gardens of Heligan Part I

One of the gardens in Cornwall that I have wanted to visit for some years is The Lost Gardens of Heligan. Home to the Tremayne family for over 400  years between 1770 and 1914 four generations created a thriving, almost self-sufficient community. After the Great War the estate fell into disrepair and decades of neglect together with the storm of 1990 should have seen the end. The derelict gardens were discovered by Tim Smit and John Willis (Tremayne descendant) in 1990 and in a tiny room in one of the walled gardens the reason for it demise was found. A motto etched into the limestone walls in barely legible pencil still reads “Don’t come here to sleep or slumber” with the names of those who worked there signed under the date – August 1914.

Finally, this year, 2014 the centenary of World War 1, I managed to get there. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. This first post is of the Pleasure Grounds and Northern Gardens as I have far too many photos to put everything in one post.

Spring Notes:
Camelias, rhododendrons & magnolias. Frogs and toads mating, birds nesting. Daffodils, wallflowers & ranunculus. Peach, apple, pear & quince blossom. Rhubarb, asparagus & wild garlic. New-born Dexter calves.

Source of information: The Lost Gardens of Heligan website and leaflets.

The first thing to catch my eye were the pots of tulips at the garden entrance. There is a tearoom, a shop and garden centre as well as a farm shop which you can visit for free.

(please click on an image to scroll through a gallery)

Once through the ticket office you enter into Flora’s Green where paths wind through and around the Pleasure Grounds where intricate gardens were inspired by the Tremaynes’ passion for travel and the garden trends of the Victorian age. It is home to the National Collection of Camellias and Rhododendrons introduced to Heligan pre-1920.


The Beacon path leads you past a pretty dovecote to the Northern Summerhouse with a view to the sea (and yes that is a crow sneaking into the doves’ home).



View over towards Mevagissey Bay

 A pretty cobblestone walled garden awaits, overhung with a delicate pink rhododendron with more pots of tulips and narcissus and a tranquil pond with a pretty fountain.

Continue along the Eastern Ride through ‘New Zealand’, past the Crystal Grotto and the Wishing Well to the Well Area.


“New Zealand”


Where you find another lovely dovecote. And the entrance into the walled flower garden with its Peach House, Vinery and Citrus House and beds of jewel-like ranunculus.

Go through the centre of the Flower Garden and enter the Sundial Garden which backs onto the private Heligan House.


Outside the garden is a huge Euphorbia mellifera (honey spurge) with small, honey-scented, bronze-tinted flowers.


From here enter the Melon Yard from where you can access the delightful small Italian Garden and the very large walled Northern Gardens which are restored working gardens growing over 200 varieties of mainly heritage fruit and vegetables.

Leaving the Italian Garden behind head back towards the Garden exit along the Western Ride or via the Ravine, which is rather more uneven.

Now you could leave the gardens as we have arrived back at the ticket office, but if you want to continue to explore these special gardens then you still have Heligan Wild, woodlands, lost parkland, rich pastures with herds of Dexter cattle and magical mud sculptures in the Woodland Walk. In the Lost Valley you can look for bird-life from the Shepherd’s Hut or Wildlife Centre. And there is the Sub-tropical Jungle, a steep-sided valley garden with a unique micro-climate.

Click here to see the second part of this walk.

And if you enjoy walking, whether in a garden or alongside a river, or by the coast then join Jo’s Monday Walks where you are in for further treats, or where you can share your walk with us.