The romantic story of the Sleeping Beauty gardens restored to their pre Great War grandeur may appeal to older visitors, but the Lost Gardens of Heligan is also an absolute delight for younger members of the family.
Recent additions include the rope bridge across the Lost Valley, the poppy field, Horsemoor Hide(with live wildlife webcams ), a children’s obstacle course and outdoor trails. Add to this the eerie beauty of the Grey Lady and the Mud Maid, the hide and seek dream of a jungle and the curious pineapple pit, not to mention great family facilities. It makes a unique and inspiring day out.
We took our two and seven year old girls to explore. They loved the outdoor trail to the Lost Valley, passing the giant’s head (emerging from the mud) and the sleeping Grey Lady. The obstacle course – including tree stump stepping stones, balance bars and willow tunnels – manages to distract them from feeling it was that immense family horror ‘THE WALK!”
The obstacle course was challenging enough to keep seven-year-old Bathsheba interested but was possible for Saskia to enjoy it too – with a little adult assistance. Just before the Lost Valley we reached the poppy field, planted to commemorate the start of World War I. Its beauty, poignancy and relevance to Heligan (who lost many of its gardeners in the war) was striking. The girls loved its vivid colour and Wizard of Oz connotations. No rush, the poppy field will be a feature at Heligan until 2018.
The Lost Valley is sheltered and steep, allowing gunera, bamboo and tree ferns to flourish. Perfect for hide and seek! Tim enjoyed channelling his inner Indiana on the rope bridge…and the girls enjoyed an intrepid cross too! The wide walkways of the Lost Gardens are easy to wander through and buggy friendly. Buggies are allowed everywhere except the Lost Valley, where there’s a buggy park.
Clambering out of the valley we stopped at the cafe and picnic garden. Cafe food includes wholesome options as well as treats. There’s a fantastically high button tree swing for children to enjoy while you picnic. This was Bathsheba’s Heligan highlight.
On our way to the hides we stopped to admire a bountiful Tamworth sow and her piglets and to explore the crystal cave. This is a man-made cave embedded with quartz-crystal which glimmers back at you when you switch on your phone torch. We enjoyed a mooch past the 40 foot long, manure-filled pineapple pit too.
At Horsemoor Hide, the girls had the opportunity to watch webcams of fledging barn owls and other nesting birds. Well-sited bird feeders meant they could see birds – such as finches and golden pheasants – feeding right under their noses.
The Lost Gardens have a busy programme of events. Highlights this summer include The Lost Summer (24th July – 2nd September) giving visitors the opportunity to build dens, toast marshmallows, play croquet and chill in a ha mmock and the staging of Kneehigh Theatre’s brand new production ‘946’ (from 25th July – 24th August).
It’s a really, really good day out for toddlers and older children. Put it on your list.
Ashlyn, Mrs farmer Tim