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What's this blog all about?

Hi, I'm Nicola - welcome to a blog about family travel around the world, without leaving the UK.
I love travel adventures, but to save cash and keep my family's carbon footprint lower, I dreamt up a unique stay-at-home travel experience. So far I've visited 110 countries... without leaving the UK. Join me exploring the next 86! Or have a look at the "countries" you can discover within the UK by scrolling the labels (below right). Here's to happy travel from our doorsteps. See www.nicolabaird.com for info about the seven books I've written, a link to my other blog on thrifty, creative childcare (homemadekids.wordpress.com) or to contact me.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Romancing secret gardens

This blog is about family travel around the world without leaving the UK. Impossible? No. This post is about the ways icy winds and snow flake flurries makes me think about gardens offering proper atmsophere. Words from Nicola Baird (see www.nicolabaird.com for more info about my books and blogs).  

First dog violets of 2013.
Botanical gardens are some of my favourite places - perhaps because they seem such secret treasures oftenlocated by really busy streets. There's a lovely one off Oxford High Street (the oldest in Britain); a deer-filled one just three miles from Aberdeen (Cruickshank) and a jungle with a collection of rare trees just behind the prison in Honiara (Solomon Islands). But if I'm honest my favourite "place" in the world is The Secret Garden

Nell and friends ready to head off to see the musical of The Secret Garden as a birthday treat.
Yes, I know it's a book about coming to terms with grief and yourself, but the way Mary, Colin and Dickon wake up the locked garden just off the Yorkshire moors turns me irresistibly towards what to do about spring. And it's a longing/love that I've tried to pass on to my daughters and their friends (see pic above).

Every year the season I wait and wait for catches me by surprise. It's only February and already I've had a wish on the first snowdrops, comfrey, primroses, daffodils and dog violets. In a month's time I suspect my habit of wishing when I see the first of the year's plants will be impossible to maintain as new green shoots pop up and bloom so fast once the soil warms up.

Which is why I took my family to Cornwall's famous Lost Gardens of Helligan in deep winter. It was uncrowded and the endless Victorian walled gardens made it irresistible. A special delight is being able to explore it all - and there are acres (including a Lost Valley and a Jungle, see pic below) so leave yourself a lot of time - and then sit quietly in the Italian Garden. The Italian Garden is the first one the Lost Garden creators restored back in 1990 and even if you missed the BBC documentary about how the gardens were restored to full productive force you can see the film at the site. When John Nelson and Tim Smit first started to breathe gardening life back into this garden, the ornamental pond from the 1920s was just a plinth; the statue of Putto with a Dolphin missing; the gate on its hinges and the whole area a knotted mess of laurel and bramble. Oh but it's beautiful now with sunlight, olive trees and herbs - an evocative spot that rushes you to the Mediterranean (even in winter!).

If you go in the right season you should be able to see pineapples growing (they are hot housed using tonnes of manure), melons and some plants like camellias and rhododendrons which could be the oldest in the UK.

It's steep, wet-slippery and seems
overgrown - proper jungle, but
it's found in Cornwall.

Who will you find in the lost gardens?
The Lost Gardens of Heligan are a place of wonder and fantasy. You can fixate about how they were restored, get lost in the acreage, daydream or bird spot in the shepherd's hut that's been parked by the lakes at the garden's far end, or just play travel games as you get lost - and find yourself again - in the many walled gardens. Mystery, peace, history... just some of the feelings this journey to a secret garden offers.

The Lost Gardens of Heligan at Pentewan are open daily (except xmas day and boxing day) from 10am. There is a direct bus from St Austell train station (takes 20-30mins). More info see www.heligan.com or tel 01726 845100.

More posts on gardens - see guest post by Pete May of Joy of Essex about Warley Place, Essex
More posts on Cornwall - see Eden Project.
Books about gardens - Sleeping Beauty, The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, Tom's Midnight Garden by Phillipa Pearce, Atonement (it's where Ian McEwan starts the action and misunderstandings).

Over to you
What's your favourite garden that tricks you into thinking you've left the UK thanks to atmospheric planting and paths?





1 comment:

scott davidson said...

What an interesting blog, introduced by a thought-provoking photo. The unusual wall painting of the dwellings is also a strangely modern interpretation. Something like this hieroglyphic view of a park by Swiss painter Paul Klee, http://EN.WahooArt.com/A55A04/w.nsf/OPRA/BRUE-8LT475.
The image can be seen at wahooart.com who can supply you with a canvas print of it.