Guest Blog: National Trust Glendurgan Garden
27 September 2022
Tom Cutter, Assistant Head Gardener of National Trust Glendurgan Garden shares his knowledge and passion for this peaceful, exotic, playful valley garden
Glendurgan Garden, as I see it, was and still is a family garden.
The Fal River is adorned with many stunning gardens up and down its shores. The Helford joins the Fal River, offering picturesque views and a portal into times gone by, as the modern world has still yet to bear too much of a scar on the landscape surrounding it. The Helford River is incredibly important and poignant to the history of Glendurgan. It is the location, the view and the valleys which led the Fox family to build a slice of paradise here.
The Fox family valued educating, entertaining and feeding their family from their own ‘peace of heaven on earth’ (sic). We aim to tell these stories throughout the garden in our own subtle way. This is a great garden to bring children, they can enjoy getting lost in our exciting maze or swing around the Giant’s Stride. Alternatively, I would suggest that you take yourself back to being a child when visiting, it is hard not to imagine running around carefree. Leave all your worries at the gate, a break from the stresses of life is what we all really need at the moment.
Our iconic maze is all grown from Cherry Laurel (Prunus laurocerasus), planted back in 1833! It was designed as a replica of the maze layout which formerly stood at Sydney Gardens in Bath. The maze is positioned on the side of our main valley, allowing for an incredible view from the other side to really appreciate the complexity and intricacy of this horticultural masterpiece. This is a feature that is impossible not to enjoy!
If that isn’t enough to bring out your inner child, the Giant’s Stride will come to the rescue! Our Giant’s Stride was installed in 1912 on the wishes of George Henry Fox, although we must admit, it has seen a few reincarnations over that time span. The latest pole was reinstalled in the winter of 2021. When you grab hold of the handles and run as fast as you can around the central pole, you’ll take bigger and bigger strides until you can lift your feet off the ground and spin freely. A great deal of fun can be had on the Giant’s Stride with friends and family, and a laugh or two will most certainly be had from this simple yet enjoyable swing.
If you are looking for formality, you may need to look away, for Glendurgan can be described as a civilised jungle. It is a garden of great contrast and the family always wished for it to be a piece of heaven on earth to reflect their Quaker traditions. I think it is fair to say that this analogy still stands today.
A tranquil setting with impressive views, exotic oddities, and delicate wildflower meadows all tie in together to make Glendurgan its own entity, a truly unique garden. If you’ve come for a tranquil walk to appreciate nature, you’re obsessed with plants and want to learn more, or if you have just come to enjoy time as a family, there are few better settings. A jewel in our crown is the little beachside village of Durgan at the base of the garden and best of all, you can grab an ice cream while down there from one of our volunteers!
As you enter the garden, I suggest it is worth taking the time to stop and read our Plant Highlights board. Our gardeners keep this stocked up with specimens of plants and information about the plant’s origin and history. It is a great way for you to learn about the building blocks of this amazing place and hear the stories that each of the plants have to tell.
As we enter Autumn, most Cornish gardens begin to slow up ready to plan their grand reveal in the Spring. Glendurgan is no different, but there is still plenty of Autumnal colour, and we have some interesting highlights to spot. Our mighty Tulip Tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) turns the most amazing gold through the Autumn months. It continues to stand proud even once it is bare of all leaves with its triumphant looking trunk. This is one of the best times to appreciate the grandeur of this iconic plant. We also have some Katsura Trees (Cercidiphyllum japonicum), which produce an intoxicating smell of candy floss as you walk beneath them! This happens as the sugars in the leaf break down and give off this sweet scent around the Cherry Orchard.
Please do come along and enjoy this wonderful place with us, we’d love to welcome you!
WRITTEN BY TOM CUTTER, ASSISTANT HEAD GARDENER OF NATIONAL TRUST GLENDURGAN GARDEN