Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Lost Gardens of Heligan

Tim Smit - the only palindromically named individual I've come across - was on to a good thing when he, together with John Willis, discovered (or should I say re-discovered) the overgrown, neglected gardens that were part of the Tremaine Estate near St Austell. During the early 90s, Smit became obsessed with restoring the gardens to their former glory and with a record producer's feel for what might sell (he'd worked with, ahem, the Nolan Sisters and Barry Manilow), he came up with the Lost Gardens moniker and convinced Channel 4 to make a TV programme about the project. It worked. There are plenty of other lovely gardens in Cornwall, but Smit managed to put it on the map, without the National Trust's involvement and you can't even visit the stately home in the middle. 
We spent a nice afternoon there. It's an interesting mixture of formal and informal, sometimes bordering on wild, with some funny art interventions like the sleeping mud-maid and a beautiful vegetable garden complete with tweedy scarecrow (see pix). There's an extensive nursery, giftshop and very decent cafe - all the stuff that transforms a mere 'place' into a visitor attraction.
Smit of curse went on to even greater things, just a few miles up the road: the audacious Eden Project. 

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