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The Lost Gardens of Heligan Celebrate 25 years with a new educational barn opening

April 6, 2017 Destination Europe No Comments Email Email

Sir Tim Smit and the Heligan team are today celebrating one of Cornwall’s biggest success stories: The Lost Gardens of Heligan – discovered deserted and derelict a quarter of a centre ago, now transformed into one of the UK’s most loved gardens – by opening a new educational barn.

‘The Barn’ – opened today by Sir Tim and Heligan Shire horse Izzy – is a new agricultural space designed to enable visitors to learn more about the important work that is carried out across the Estate.

The new area was formally opened by Sir Tim Smit who, along with Tremayne Family descendent John Willis and John Nelson discovered the Gardens and set about restoring them 25 years ago.

As a tenacious group of gardening enthusiasts, they discovered of a small wooden ram shackled door in the gardens near Mevagissey and beat their way through brambles to reveal the Lost Gardens’ secrets for the very first time.

The First World War had wreaked havoc on the gardens, when Heligan’s gardeners, employed by The Tremayne family, set down their tools and went to war leaving the garden to years of neglect and decay. The Great War claimed the lives of 9 of the 13 loyal gardeners who went off to fight in 1914.


The discovery of the gardens caused a sensation and the restoration and opening in 1992 led to a TV series, book and media attention, which secured the 200-acre site’s reputation as one of the greatest public gardens in the UK.

Since then, its story told over a quarter of a century through the medium of horticulture, animal husbandry and unequivocal tenacity, The Lost Gardens of Heligan, have welcomed over 5.7 million visitors from all over the world and have been showered with accolades; from the BBC Gardeners’ World title of Nation’s Favourite Garden, to the UK’s Best Leisure Attraction at the British Travel Awards.

The Lost Gardens of Heligan Managing Director George Elworthy says: “Heligan is different to most garden restorations. It is a living, breathing entity and not just a museum piece. It continues to thrive and evolve in remembrance of the gardeners whose lives were cut short when they left to go to war.”

Today, the future of the gardens has never been more secure. The devoted garden restoration teams can reflect proudly on the jaw dropping historical finds they have unearthed and acknowledge how far the gardens have come a quarter of a century later.

Heligan celebrates old and new within keeping, innovative additions such as the Mud Maid, the Giant’s Head and the subtropical Jungle; which is now home to one of the longest Burmese Rope Bridges in Britain, stretching 100 feet across the ancient tree lined canopy.

Finds such as the historic pineapple pit that today is Europe’s only remaining working, manure heated pit or the ram pumps buried deep within a nearby valley, that once supplied the lifeblood to the Northern Gardens.

The estate’s farm is home to a variety of traditional and rare breed livestock and is managed using sustainable,low intensity techniques practiced locally for centuries; a vision Sir Tim first had for the estate. Visitors can see Highland cattle, White Parks, Devon and Cornwall Longwool sheep, foraging Tamworth pigs, traditional breeds of poultry and meadows brimming with butterflies and wildlife.

Education has been an important part of the gardens’ attraction for many, with a Hide for visitors to view nesting barn owls and an insect hotel teeming with invertebrate life waiting to be discovered.

Celebrations and events are held every year, from spring flowers to Halloween, Christmas lantern parades, to Harvest Feast Nights, popular seasonal guided tours to one of the most spectacular and poignant poppy displays in the country, within the gardens’ ‘Field of Remembrance’.

Heligan is at the forefront of global cultivation and conservation with its unique collection of Camellias and Rhododendrons, many of which were raised from the seed collected in India by the great plant hunter Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker, during his expedition in 1847.

Heligan is now looking forward to welcoming friends past, present and future during 2017 to help them celebrate their Silver Anniversary, whilst safeguarding Heligan’s future for the next 25 years and enjoying a host of special events throughout the year.

There will also be extensive, period correct planting of the Ravine and plenty of exciting outdoor fun throughout the estate.

No longer lost, the beautiful Gardens of Heligan continue to reveal to the world, the secret stories of their historical, horticultural, heritage.

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