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A Week in Cornwall – Part 4 – Heligan

The Lost Gardens of Heligan is one of the top garden attractions in the country as figures have shown. The gardens were discovered and unearthed by Tim Smitt when he explored the gardens which had been derelict since the end of World War I, when so many of the gardeners did not return. The gardens were totally overgrown, buildings derelict and glasshouses tumbling down, glass broken and wood rotting.

Smitt decided to resurrect them and opened the gardens to the public as a team of gardeners and archaeologists began work. They were called, romantically, The Lost Gardens of Heligan. We visited soon after it opened and really enjoyed its romantic atmosphere.

The restoration is now just about complete, so we looked forward to our return visit to see it in its new guise. We soon realised that we were in for a treat as soon as we entered the coffee shop for our usual boost of coffee and cakes before our wanderings. Old garden tools were beautifully framed and displayed on the walls and the building had a lovely old rustic feel about them.

 

As we left the cafe a fingerpost presented us with plenty of options. We were most interested in the productive walled garden with its glasshouses, coldframes, bothy and potting shed. So we made our way there passing interesting plantings along the way.

   

We entered the walled garden through a gateway and made our way towards apple arches forming a covered walkway, rich with fruit. Around all border edges fruit is trained to create living productive fences. Across the length of each garden patch vegetables, roots, beans and salads march in long strong rows as straight as can be.

    

The gardeners were busily strengthening the traditions laid down by their gardener predecessors. One gardener was spreading seaweed collected just hours before from the beach and driven back to the walled garden by tractor and trailer. Nearby potatoes were being harvested and boxed up in wooden trays in readiness for storage in dark sheds or cellars.

 

Flowers for cutting were blossoming in lines parallel to the veggies, zinnias, dahlias and antirrhinums.

 

Leaving the walled garden we moved into a smaller attached walled yard, where coldframes sat wide open for aeration.These sat happily alongside a collection of glasshouses. These glasshouses were the very ones we had seen years ago in a state of total dereliction. Now they stand proud and productive thanks to the skills of craftsmen utilising traditional craftsmanship and skills.

The walls were furnished with ancient trained fruit trees, apples, pears, peaches and plums.

    

Beyond the glasshouses the potting shed stood holding the memories of those gardeners lost in the first world war, terracotta pots filled each row of every rack where close by garden tools hung on whitewashed walls. We could feel a special atmosphere in this shed, full of the skills of gardeners past and present.

     

Leaving the potting shed we still had lots to see and plenty to explore. See my next post for Heligan Part 2, Beyond the Potting Shed.

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autumn community gardening fruit and veg garden buildings garden photography gardening gardens gardens open to the public grow your own kitchen gardens National Trust renovation Shrewsbury Shropshire The National Trust walled gardens walled kitchen gardens Winter Gardening

The Walled Garden at Attingham Park

Our local National Trust property, Attingham Park, is just a 20 minute drive away. We are so lucky as within the grounds are several different walks to choose from including woodland walks, but we also love visiting the renovated walled gardens. When we first visited Attingham Park years ago now there were very few walks accessible, the walled gardens were in a poor state of repair and the refreshment facilities were poor. Things have certainly changed for the better!

In late November we decided to go for a walk around the woodlands and explore the walled garden to see what was going on. The improvements become immediately obvious as there is now a new entrance building and a newly refurbished Carriage House Cafe in the stable yard. After sampling the delights in the cafe we wandered off towards the Walled Garden one of our favourite elements of the Attingham Estate. In the Stable Yard sits a little sales hut selling produce from the walled garden, freshly picked and delivered by bike.

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The Walled Garden was originally created way back in 1780 and its job was to provide the estate with fresh fruit and vegetables throughout the year. Looking at it now it is hard to believe that it fell into total disuse and dereliction. An amazing team of volunteers have recently brought it back to life. It no longer produces food for the “big house” but instead sends its organic produce up to the restaurant and cafe and for sale to the visitors.

One of the impressive features of the Walled Garden is the amount of information boards placed carefully to keep visitors fully informed. Before passing through the gateway into the garden itself we always love seeing the beautifully trained fruit on the outside wall.

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Taking a step inside and the garden came to life before our eyes, volunteers busy harvesting, weeding the beds and clearing ground ready for winter digging.

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The volunteer gardeners enjoy getting creative with Birch and Hazel boughs and branches and their bean supports, tunnels and wigwams always look impressive.

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It was good to see sound organic principles being used here, barriers, green manures and companion planting and herbaceous borders to attract beneficial insects, predators and pollinators.

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As we moved into the glasshouse area we were impressed  by the renovation work being carried out on the glasshouse ranges. Information boards show visitors what the area looked like prior to its rescue.

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Cut flowers were also grown here and even in November the Dahlias were flowering well due to the protection of the walls and protection from Earwigs provided by the old fashioned method of putting a pot stuffed with straw on top of a cane.

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On a cold day a look inside the gardeners bothy proved to be a welcome time to warm up and enjoy the displays.

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Exiting the Walled Garden via the orchard gave us a chance to look at the front of the old red brick buildings. The Walled Gardens here at Attingham are worth visiting throughout the year as there is always something interesting going on. We are so lucky having this national trust property so close to Shrewsbury.

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From the walled gardens we wandered off into the woodlands following one of the marked trails. My next post will feature what we found there.