Generations of gardeners create a little bit of heaven
As part of our National Trust 2-for-1 offer Martin Hesp has been delving into some of the region’s most visited properties – including Trelissick on the banks of the Fal.
Trelissick is a dreamy demesne rich in stunning views… So much so, that you get the feeling someone was always going to do something grand with this bit of southern Cornwall that protrudes into the Fal above the Carrick Roads.
The forces of nature had conspired to create a canvas which just had to be painted – and today Trelissick is one of the most popular gardens and estates in the region.
The person who first realised he was sitting on heaven-in-the-making was John Lawrence. He was determined to make his mark on the beautifully situated peninsula on the Fal after he inherited the land at Trelissick in the mid-1700s.
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Without more ado he built a modest mansion and started planting trees in his parkland. But by the end of the century the Lawrence family were experiencing financial difficulties and in 1805 Trelissick was put up for sale after a legal action by the family's creditors. Among them was one Ralph Allen Daniell.
Son of the wealthy owner of a tin and copper mine, Daniell managed to get his hands on the heavenly estate and immediately set about expanding and developing the parkland.
His son Thomas continued the work, but he too found there was a bitter taste lurking in paradise – once again in the form of financial ruin.
Eventually the estate was bought by John Davies Gilbert who died just ten years after getting his hands on this most handsome of all Cornish estates. His young son Carew inherited and further developed the grounds, as did George Cookson, who rented Trelissick at the end of the 19th century.
But it was the Copeland family who really developed the gardens between 1937 and 1955. They owned the china company W T Copeland and Sons Ltd and many of the flowers painted on their Spode-ware were grown at Trelissick.
In 1955 Mrs Ida Copeland gave the house and gardens to the National Trust stipulating there should always be at least three gardeners – the trust employs four, plus volunteers – and that the residence should always be offered first to members of her family. And they still reside in the house, which is very occasionally opened to the public.
So much for the history – today Trelissick unsurprisingly acts as a magnet to garden-lovers who visit the county.
It's not unknown for the 30-acre gardens and the surrounding 250-acre estate to attract 130,000 in a year.
"There are a lot of spots to stop and dwell as you walk in the garden," I was told by Trelissick's visitor experience and marketing manager Jon O'Donoghue. "And there are lots of strolls with fantastic views."
He explained how the garden can be regarded as a series of historical "layers" – stretching back in time to when Ralph Allen Daniell did so much planting. "We've got some really well-established trees from back then and there are layers underneath that. A lot of people take inspiration from this place as a woodland garden – they will see a tree that they might have in their garden and discover what will grow under it.
"We get a lot of people who are, for instance, mad on hostas," said Jon. "We've got so many here the slugs don't know where to start.
"It is famous as a woodland garden but we have got sunny lawns – and we are very lucky with the views down the Carrick Roads to Falmouth and also upriver.
"And so we do get a lot of families here – especially parents with young children who want somewhere that's dog-free and safe for them to explore."
The really good news is that Trelissick is one of the trust's most continuously open properties – the gardens are only closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.