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Anna HymanPhotos Sourced by our Photo Editor Sarah Harvey

Heligon Woman

Photos - click to enlarge.




Gorgeous gardens, cream teas, picturesque fishing villages, fine dining. Anna Hyman thoroughly enjoyed her visit to Cornwall.

St. Ives Harbour, Cornwall

We weren't quite sure where we were going, but we had an hour or so to kill, and the little lane studded with spring flowers looked inviting. It led us down, deep into the beautiful Lanherne valley and the village of St Mawgan.

We parked the car and for a few minutes leant on one of the bridges watching the water of the river Menalhyl playing with stones and the branches of overhanging trees, before turning our attention to the 13th century parish church with its pretty bell tower. It was fairly early in the morning and the antique shop and craft shop were still closed but a few yards along the road we discovered a Japanese Garden. A Japanese garden in this quintessentially English countryside both surprised and intrigued us.

St Mawgan's Japanese Garden

It was enchanting – the Japanese Maples had clad themselves in their fresh green, pink and red spring leaves, camellias and cherry blossom were in flower, birds sang overhead, a distant bell chimed and the little streams of water chuckled with glee in the warm sunshine. 'What path should I take?' I had wondered when we arrived. 'It doesn't matter,' was the answer 'the garden is like life, it offers many paths, it is up to you which one you take'. We took the advice and followed our noses, and for a blissful 30 minutes had the two-acre garden just to ourselves.

But then our conscience pricked and we remembered our friend Rob, patiently waiting for us following his emergency visit to a local dentist at Porth, close by Newquay. Pausing long enough to buy some acers to take home (and one as a consolation prize for Rob) we headed back to base.

Our spring holiday had been scheduled for Madeira, but a certain ash cloud cancelled that plan. However, we had been lucky enough to find last minute accommodation in one of the self-catering apartments and villas in the grounds of the Porth Veor Manor Hotel. It proved to be an excellent choice as apart from our villa being exceedingly comfortable we also had the option of taking our meals, including breakfast in the hotel.

Pausing only long enough to off-load our acers and collect Rob we set off to explore..

It quickly became apparent that with only four days available to us we were never going to see more than two or three of the many Cornish gardens open to the public, especially as we wanted to experience some of the quaint Cornish fishing villages as well.

We decided to save the Eden Project for another trip as we didn’t really have enough time to do it justice and on this occasion we were more interested in experiencing ‘country’ gardens rather than Eden’s ‘global’ garden. So without more ado we headed for The Lost Gardens of Heligan.

Heligan Man

I had long wanted to see Heligan and indeed parts of it are lovely. I was full of admiration for the hard work that had gone into restoring the magnificent borders and gardens to their former glory but for me it was a bit too commercialised: and I was not impressed with the food offered in the cafeteria. However, I would thoroughly recommend a visit to Heligan between 26 April and 2 May when de Jager hold one of their memorable tulip festivals. This year’s festival will feature many of the older bulb varieties to complement the history of the garden.

Heligan boots & bulbs

Far more my scene was Pine Lodge Garden near St Austell. In its 30 acres thrive a collection of over 6000 plants – helpfully labelled. The walks between the various segments of the garden were a joy and the camellias magnificent. Pine Lodge’s Japanese Garden with its family of ducks who had adopted the little lake delighted us. It was more formal than the garden at St Mawgan, and gave us another aspect of a Japanese garden. Later we were to spend far too much time and money in the nursery which prides itself on growing and selling rare and unusual plants.

Pine Lodge Garden

In between garden forays we called in at St Ives, beloved by artists and with numerous art galleries including Tate St Ives, maybe the plethora of fast food outlets down by the harbour spoil it a little, but it is still worth visiting; and Mevagissy (don’t miss out on Mevagissy’s quaint little museum by one of the two harbours). We also called in at Padstow as we had a reservation for lunch at Rick Stein’s famous and excellent restaurant. Rick Stein foodie outlets are much in evidence in Padstow. One day just by chance and in need of a cream tea we found ourselves at Fowey and the Dwelling House. Our freshly baked scones were straight from the oven and tea from the local Tregothnan estate tea plantation was on offer – I can’t wait to go back!

Rick Stein's Padstow restaurant

You can dine well in Cornwall, we certainly did – one night eating in the hotel’s fine dining restaurant, another at the Beach Hut beneath Jamie Oliver’s restaurant Fifteen Cornwall (no vacancies that night) at close by Watergate and also had a delicious meal at Tabb’s restaurant in Truro, actually we had two – there were so many exciting dishes on the menu that one visit was not enough.


Devon, Cornwall & Southwest England

First published in 2008 the Lonely Planet has just released the second edition of their excellent guide to Devon, Cornwall and Southwest England, written by Oliver Berry and Belinda Dixon. The guide is a mine of information with suggested itineraries giving lots of useful information about food, attractions, culture, heritage and accommodation. Learn when Agatha Christie’s holiday home is open; where to find fossils, local breweries, the best places to eat, subtropical gardens and the rich history of the region.

The Lonely Planet guide to Devon, Cornwall & Southwest England. ISBN 978-1-74179-219-5. £12.99. (Click on the Amazon Book Advertisement on this page)

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