Visit the Eden Project and the Lost Gardens of Heligan – Challenge No 20


Well hello again everyone.  I have to admit I have missed blogging my escapades so here I am to regale you with the fun, frolics and frustrations that took place on my recent trip.

I love gardening, plants and all things green so it has been a wish for quite some while to visit these two gardens; however they are a very long way away.  Chris, my husband, has been brilliant this year supporting me and accompanying me on many of my challenges but he put his foot down on this one and understandably said you are on your own!!  So how does a now 50+woman who does not drive (well…only back from the pub) get from Kent to Cornwall?  Answer…..on a coach trip!!!!

So, I was the only person on the coach trip who was a single traveller…what a larry!!  But most of the people were completely delightful and in particular I met Betty and Don who made my holiday; how I aspire to be like them…adventurous, full of fun, open and honest…and such globe trotters(despite being nearly 80).  There were however huge drawbacks to this trip which I wont dwell upon and bore you with, except to say…unnecessary hours beyond belief on the coach, plus 4 hours there and back (each day!!) to get to the gardens and not long enough in the gardens, little time to explore Torquay and ‘interesting’ meals and entertainment. But that said I was the youngest by some few years and I guess the holiday was not aimed at me!! So…..on to the fabulous bit…

First day (after an unusually early awakening and a brisk sunrise walk around Torquay beach followed by far too many slices of fried bread) was Heligan.  I can not adequately explain how much I loved this garden.  It was ‘lost’/allowed to become overgrown after WW1 and had been uncovered and restored over the last 25 years (an interesting story in itself).  It is lush, tropical in places yet has retained the feeling of a proper British Large House garden too which is a very clever feat.  There is a rope bridge over what can only be described as ‘beasts’ of gunnera in the tropical garden (and yes I may have foolishly bought one…agghhh) and it is approx. 3 degrees warmer down there too.  There are plenty of walks, a walled garden full of vegetables and fruit, stunning and unusual plants, sculptures…..this girl was in heaven.  And, surprisingly, such a joy to be on my own and be able to please myself where I went and how long I stayed to browse or take photos.  Whilst I am a social creature I have surprised myself this year by just how much I like being solitary and enjoy my own company.  The most moving part of Heligan though is their connection with the former garden staff who went off to WW1, some returned and some did not.  They have photos, descriptions and pay homage to these early creators/custodians of the garden in a wonderful way and it adds tremendously to the visit to the garden.  I think of myself as a transient guardian of my own garden and so I could relate to these men who are remembered and honoured not only for their sacrifice but also for the legacy of the garden they helped create.  I would urge anyone who gets the opportunity to got to this garden.

Day Two and after an early shock of the fire alarm going off whilst I am stood dripping and naked having just stepped out of the shower (don’t even ask where that story goes!!) we were off to Eden, via Bodmin Moor for some random reason. And WOW  what a bold impression it makes when you first view it.  It is so hard to think of the transformation that has taken place on this site.  It took me back to watching Space 1999 as a kid where huge biome pods were on desolate Moonbase Alpha.  I walked around the wild Cornwall path first which was full of planting that you could take back home and utilize.  I then spotted the skywire and felt that in the spirit of my earlier 50@50 challenges I just had to have a go. Its Englands longest and fastest zip wire experience, over 100m above ground (see the photo of sky below and a tiny dot of a person flying through it) What a thrill and what an amazing view of the Eden site….it made my day.  I then ventured into the Rainforest Biome which felt like stepping into another country…the sounds, warmth, plants.  The whole concept is informative and evocative.  Next was the Mediterranean Biome which I found rather underwhelming (yet it does house a great café for future note) so if I were to visit again I would reverse the order I visited them in.  Overall it was an amazing place to visit and such a fantastic weekend of photography potential.  I could not cover all of it …but on reflection it was not as memorable to me as Heligan…which elicits a more personal response and is more engaging.  My biggest regret was not having time to shop….wow Eden and Heligan both have the best garden shops I have EVER seen….plants, gifts, books, toys, fresh produce, food…did I mention plants??!!

I am now back home and having recovered from excessive fried bread (too good for words) and a very numb bottom I am looking afresh at my garden….where to put the gunnera?  Should I dig up all the lawn and make a tropical paradise?  Should I speak nicely to my brothers and ask them to build a giant wall around my whole garden…who would not love a walled garden?  Should I knock down the barn and build a tropical biome?  Should I make my garden a showcase for sculpture?  Should I………..

Off now to purchase a lottery ticket !!!