When you enter Trebah, one of the first sights that greets you is the stunning vista down over the treetops of the garden’s subtropical valley, past the lake, to the sea beyond and the rolling hills around the coastline. The estate house is perched uphill directly behind where this shot was taken from and looks out across the lawn on this view; what an amazing sight this must be to wake up to.
Trebah has over 4 miles of winding pathways which, true to many of the Cornish gardens, lead you through tropical valleys, rhododendron forests and native woodland. It is, however, the only garden we came across that has a private beach.
Because of its coastal location on the Helford Estuary, the garden is very steep, leading all the way down to the beach. This creates a lush tropical area in the middle, with bamboos and gunnera aplenty, and even the garden’s very own water monster.
Just like at Heligan, I found there was a real sense of atmosphere at Trebah. Perhaps it’s no coincidence, considering that one of the early champions of the Heligan project was Major Tony Hibbert, owner of Trebah until he died in 2014, who was responsible for his own large-scale restoration project here.
There are information boards commemorating the departure of American troops from the beach for the D-Day landings, and I could just imagine the long-gone inhabitants of the great house walking along the paths to the Eyrie, which looks out from the hills over the coast and was surely the site of many heartfelt discussions and solitary contemplations.
The rhododendrons and magnolia were starting to flower as we were there, but even without them there are so many shades of green in this garden, I imagine it is glorious to look at all year round.
Not only was Trebah the only garden we saw that has its own beach, it was – I think – the only one with a custom-built amphitheatre. Imagine how atmospheric it must be watching one of the performances against the setting sun in this stunning location.
I think of all the gardens, Trebah felt the most natural and at home in its surroundings, nestled into the estuary. Ok, so tree ferns and bamboo aren’t native plants but somehow they work perfectly in this location against the native woodland and firs, and they look absolutely right in the bottom of the valley. I think this sense of ‘rightness’ of the garden and its location are what give it the sense of atmosphere and romance and certainly made it a real highlight of my week.
Photos by Dave Musson