Cotehele – a Cornish Gem
Visiting a garden when it is 28C is not really ideal but needs must and all that. This Friday I drove down to Plymouth to pick my youngest up from University. He will be home now until September and as he will be in a new house then everything had to come home. My poor little Peugeot was full to the gunnels. Anyway, it is a good 7 hr round trip and having done it once in a day I am in no hurry to do it again so we stay overnight in a Premier Inn which is basic but comfortable. As he is always keen to get out of the student house I go in the morning and we have a nice afternoon out. At Easter we went to the Garden House and I had hoped to visit WildSide this time but it was closed so the good old National Trust came to the rescue and we went to Cotehele Manor.
The journey was interesting up and down tiny Cornish lanes wondering if anything was coming the other way but it was worth the effort. A quick picnic lunch and we went off to explore the grounds and to find some shade. Sadly the Tudor house was shut on Friday (in fact it is amazing how many tourist attractions are shut on a Friday in Devon and Cornwall!) but the grounds were more than enough for us. The house, like so many grand houses in the area, sits at the top of a valley this one leads down to the River Tamar. You can just see a viaduct in the distance if you peer.
Whilst the formal terrace gardens looked very nice and were performing well despite the heat we really needed some shade so we headed down to the Valley Garden.
To be honest I think if there had been somewhere to sit in the tunnel down to the Valley Garden I could quite happily have sat there for the afternoon admiring the view glimpsed below.
The main features of the Valley Garden are the medieval stewpond and the dovecote. The stewpond, I believe, was use to keep the fish for dinner in so I wonder if the dovecote was used for doves to eat? Unlike Heligan, Cotehele doesn’t have lots of statuesque tree ferns. The planting in the Valley Garden is very much rhododendrons, azaleas and other similar plants.
There is what appears to be a natural stream running down the Valley Garden and I suspect this was dammed in the past to create the stewpond. We came across the stream further down though became aware of it well in advance due to the smell. I suppose given the heat and also the low water tables at the moment it is hardly surprising that the water isn’t running that freely. However, the gunnera were looking very healthy and I am sure that with the rain they had the following day everything will now be smelling fresher!
We managed to make our way up and down the Valley Garden and it was surprising how many people on such a warm afternoon were as mad as us. We then made our way to the Upper Garden and lay on the grass for quite some time in the shade you can see in the photo above. It was lovely, peaceful, with the birds singing, a breeze stirring branches overhead. We had fun putting the world to rights but in the end decided that there must be a Cornish Cream Tea in the offing somewhere so finished our tour of the Upper Garden. We gave the orchards a miss as they looked rather warm so we missed out on the living sculptures mentioned on the National Trust website but there is always another day.
We had a very nice afternoon in an extremely well maintained garden. The gardens are interesting since there is a range of styles from the formal terrace garden, through the relaxed and shady upper garden to the lush and intriguing Valley Garden. I suspect we will be visiting again at some point over the next two year – and the cream tea was delicious!