D-Day and the Unexplained Sturgeon

For so many, Cornwall is all about the gardens. At this time of year, many of the incredible Cornish gardens are arguably at their absolute best. We can just breeze in,  enjoy the electric pinks of the rhododendron and azalea which are presented on a horticultural platter for easy visual consumption, and breeze off again. We get on with life, pretty sure that if we need to visit one of these places, well, they are just there!

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The Garden at Trebah, like so many of the great Cornish gardens didn’t just happen. Far from it. If you could be transported back to 1825 to look at this valley, there would be no towering Monterey and Maritime Pines giving shelter to the microclimatic valley beneath. A distinct lack of notable plant species, no architectural agaves, no prehistoric looking gunnera or tree ferns, none of it. Our trip today with good friends was an adventure for kids and grown-ups alike. For me, it was a very long time since I’d visited Trebah Gardens on The Helford river and I was astounded by the beauty and the foresight of the many people who over time have created this sub tropical junglesque valley paradise.

The gardens have a network of pathways leading towards Yankee Beach at the foot of the valley. The name quite obviously stuck from it’s change of use in 1944 when it was largely concreted over to create a suitable hard standing for the American 29th Infantry to congregate with various armoured vehicles. These were loaded into landing craft and from here made their way up the English Channel before the crossing to Omaha Beach and the D-Day Landings. A memorial commemorates the events which is a fitting reminder and importantly helps the lolly lickers on the beach understand why someone’s ‘paved paradise and put up a parking lot‘ next to the ice-cream kiosk.

someone’s ‘paved paradise and put up a parking lot‘ next to the ice-cream kiosk

There’s a water garden that’s been carefully planned down through the valley and beautiful lilies adorn the edges of the tumbling stream. At the head of the valley a Koi Carp pool houses several whoppers that wouldn’t look out of place on a plate down at Morrish’s Fish and Chip shop! but also and interestingly there was, what appeared to be a 2ft sturgeon. A prehistoric looking fish, something like a cross between a cat fish and a shark. He or she was doing laps of the pool with far more energy than the Koi and I’m pretty sure by the way it was hugging the edges was planning a great escape. These fish look prehistoric because they are really with a traceable fossil history going back over 200 million years and if my command of google serves me well, this one could live for 65 years and grow to 3 metres. If so, we’re gonna need a bigger pond.

we’re gonna need a bigger pond

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One of the reasons we visited the garden today was that Cornwall Wildlife Trust and Feadon Farm had a number of displays with birds, and creatures including three beautiful birds of prey and a corn snake which I think was being carefully eyed up as the next potential meal for the three very patient killer birds. As well as the abundance of flora, fauna and general wildlife on offer, our own wildlife (the kids) enjoyed themselves and played really well together. There is a great adventure playground in the trees for them and plenty of ice-cream to go around. As a day out I recommend it and for a little insight into the past of a place that’s been the project of plant lovers for nearly two hundred years it’s well worth the trip. My top tip would be to buy the book by Tony Hibbert – Trebah My Story (£2.99) at the start of your visit and read it while you are there to get a real understanding of how the place has come about. Or you could just breeze in, enjoy this outstanding sub-tropical paradise and breeze out!

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