A day on the Helford – Glendurgan Garden and more

Our household is in a period of austerity, as we attempt to adjust our lifestyles to fit our cloth (is that the phrase?) and adjust to living on one-and-a-bit salary while Paul goes back to college. We’ve been quite good at balancing things so far this year and have managed to stash away a decent amount in the designated ‘Wedding ISA’, but now we’re getting serious about putting an end to such fun things as surf lessons and meals in actual restaurants, fancy bottles of rum and yet more stripey tops. What do you do when you’re avoiding spending money and still want to enjoy the weekends? You reach peak Britishness, and get a joint National Trust membership, of course!

I jest, but it’s true. I had a young person’s NT membership the first year we were in Cornwall, and we realised then just how worthwhile it is, primarily for the beach car parks which can be pricey in summer. Unfortunately, I am no longer a young person (sob), but while on a visit to Castle Drogo a few weeks ago we quickly decided that for £8.75 a month it’s something that we’ll not only get plenty of use out of, but which will actually encourage us to get out and explore a bit more around us. It’s so easy to go to the same beaches every time it’s sunny (Portreath, again?) but there are so many beaches in Cornwall, one for every day of the year I believe, that there’s no excuse really.

All of this is a very long-winded introduction to tell you that we went to Glendurgan Gardens the other week and it was incredible. We went on a grey afternoon that turned gloriously warm and sunny as we wound our way down into the valleys filled with lush tropical plants and trees (please don’t ask me to name any) and made hyperbolic statements like “it looks like Vietnam!” (note: neither of us have been to Vietnam). The path takes you down to Durgan ‘beach’ where we sat for a while on the rocks and watched French children expertly skimming stones, and daydreamed of having our own boat to take out on the Helford for a lazy day exploring and picnicking. The coast path winds all the way up the river, so we followed it up through the woods and across meadows with the most beautiful views until we got to the Ferryboat Inn, at Helford Passage. We managed to grab a table outside the pub and basked in the sunshine, wishing that we were hungry enough to try some of the delicious looking food coming out of the pub kitchen. Definitely one for a return visit!

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Glendurgan’s main attraction is the cherry laurel maze, which has been there since 1833 when it was planted to entertain the children of the Fox family, who lived at Glendurgan House and created the gardens. Making our way back up the slope of the garden from the beach we arrived at the entrance to the maze. The hedges are around 3 feet high, so for an adult it’s good easy fun and for children a bit more of a challenge, but actually it was harder than I expected and I was sorely disappointed that there was no ice cream van at the centre. They’re missing a trick there, especially on a hot summer’s day! After completing the maze we finished off our tours of the gardens following the path up past some truly enormous trees, back up the hill to the gift shop, cafe and car park.

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We’ll certainly be back down this way; there are so many tiny hamlets, creeks and beaches to explore that I’m sure we could visit every week for a year and still find something new. It’s so quiet too, thankfully tucked out of the way of the tourist hotspots and so tranquil next to the still, sheltered river. We are so very lucky to have this a short drive away, and it was the perfect place to spend a summer’s afternoon.

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