Tregothnan Gardens Charity Garden Opening 2016

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Tregothnan has been home to the Boscawen family since 1335 and the private historic gardens and arboretum are amongst the largest in Cornwall. Apart from one weekend a year the gardens can only be visited by prior appointment, however, each spring the gates are opened for what is billed as the UK’s largest Charity Garden event.

Being a private residence it isn’t set up for visitors like Heligan or Trebah and there are areas that are closed off to the public. I kept having to remember that there is a reason there are no signs giving you information next to the tea plantations or the obligatory childrens activities. But there is something quite exciting about exploring someones private garden and I spent most of the visit wondering how much time the family actually spend in there, where they have bbqs and if they had a dog that they walked throughout the grounds.

I was surprised to see a camellia maze and the kids and I amazingly managed to find the middle without too much trouble (maybe getting lost so many times in the Glendurgan Maze has given us a second sense). We were rewarded by finding a full sized model cow – a bit random!

The weather was perfect to enjoy the estate and after two hours of strolling around the grounds we headed to the stable yards to sample the food offerings. I have to say that I was initially a little disappointed to see that the ice cream on offer wasn’t from one of the Cornish suppliers but the Kenyan Coffee ice cream was so divine so I will excuse the use of a Devon brand.

As Tregothnan is the location of the UK’s first tea plantation and despite being a coffee drinker I felt the need to have a cup of the local speciality and it tasted …….well like tea!

The event sells out every year and therefore after seeing the forecast we purchased our tickets in advance. Normally a Private Garden Visit starts at £65 per head (admittedly you are accompanied by one of the garden staff) but for the charity opening the entry fee this year was £10 for adults and free entry for children offering reasonable value for money.

I’m glad to have ticked a visit off My Bucket List and I do recommend it however, I’m not in any rush to go back – I’d rather visit some of the gardens who are set up for visitors (and especially families). I also love being able to see gardens at different stages and how they evolve with each season, so it is a real shame that the gardens are only opened to the general public the same time every year, but then again it’s better than not being able to enjoy this little part of Cornwall at all.

Have you been before? Did you go? I would love to know what you thought?

www.tregothnan.co.uk

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Porthcurno Telegraph Museum

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As we were heading to the far west of the county over Easter to visit the Minack  it seemed like a good opportunity to pay a visit the Porthcurno Telegraph Museum. Since re-opening after a multi million pound  development a couple of years ago it has won numerous awards and therefore I was curious to see what all the fuss was about (although for some reason it hadn’t made my bucket list).

In the late nineteenth century, the remote Porthcurno became internationally famous as the British termination of early submarine telegraph cable and the attraction is located a stones throw from the stunning beach. The museum showcases both the local history of the area and also how communications have developed over the past couple of centuries. It doesn’t sound the most exciting but it really deserves the awards it has received.

We had a lovely time. There were plenty of child focused activities for the kiddies. Their favourite was the morse code machines where they could send each other messages (or just make a lot of noise). They also enjoyed finding the knitted carrier pigeons although we didn’t manage to find them all despite a second good look around the museum.

The volunteers were wonderful and went out of their way to make the experience even more enjoyable. Being Cornish residents we qualified for the locals pass which was a little of extra paperwork when we arrived but gives us free entry for a year (Adult £8.50, Child £5). If you are going to tie a visit to the museum with a show at the Minack you can get 15% off your entry.

To be honest I wasn’t overly impressed with the cafe – despite being the Easter holidays there was wasn’t much choice and a little on the expensive side for what was on offer so we gave it a miss despite planning on having lunch there. However, with Porthcurno beach just a short distance away I would choose to have a picnic on the beach rather than inside anyway (unless it was raining and then the small cafe could be very busy).

It is somewhere were you can easily spend a couple of hours as a family with a wide variety of things to do for all ages. I think that we will try to make the most of our passes and visit again within the next year, it is a bit of a shame that it is over an hour from Falmouth as if it was closer then I am sure we would be regulars.

www.telegraphmuseum.org

 

Minack Theatre – The Lightkeepers Lunch

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Looking at my bucket list there are a lot of things that are outdoors and are best enjoyed in the sun. But the trouble with the Cornish weather is that it is so unpredictable that you can’t plan things and guarantee that it won’t be raining. However, after seeing that the Minack Theatre would be putting on a family friendly performance (at a very family friendly time of 2pm) during the Easter holidays I booked for me and the kiddies to watch the Lighthouse Keepers Lunch by the newly formed Minack Youth Theatre.

Well, it could not have been more perfect. Concerned that despite the sun shining there may be a cold wind I packed four blankets, hats, scarves, gloves and thick coats. We ended up stripping down to our t-shirts and it really did feel like it could be mid-summer. We booked into the lower terrace and arrived about 45 minutes before the performance and got an amazing view (to be fair the vista is stunning from every vantage point).

The show was really good! Both my kids really enjoyed the story (they probably didn’t appreciate the setting as much as I did) and were singing the songs most of the way home. I overheard that the 2pm show was the only one this week to sell out – I hope the theatre take this on board and have more afternoon performances in the future. Whilst I am sure it is spectacular at night it is dark by 7pm in April and therefore you don’t get the bonus of the view. The tickets weren’t particularly  cheap (especially as the show only lasted 45 minutes) with the adults £11.50 and under 16s £6 but it isn’t something we are likely to do more than once a year.

After the show we enjoyed a drink and snack in the cafe looking over the stunning Porthcurno beach. If you are not lucky enough to get tickets for a show a visit to the Minack is still worth a look. Its history is almost as interesting as the view and as we didn’t see any dolphins in the bay there is an excuse to go back.

https://www.minack.com/

Lost Gardens of Heligan

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I had high expectations of the Lost Gardens of Heligan, especially after receiving lots of reports that it was better than Eden (which we love). So when they introduced a new locals pass, 2016 was going to be the year we finally made our first visit and ticket it off my bucket list.

The only downside of the Locals Pass was that you had to visit the garden in March to qualify, but with the school holidays starting the logical time to go was towards the end of the month and tie in their Easter celebrations. As with most long weekends there was an appalling weather forecast so we decided that Good Friday offered us the best opportunity to maximise the experience with a bit of sunshine. Thinking that everyone else would be doing the same we decided to arrive at opening time (10am).

Getting the pass sorted was easy, for one adult and two children over 5 it was £25 and we get to visit as many times as we want for a year.

The first thing that greets you is the giant’s head – this is one of the iconic pictures you regularly see of Heligan but it is just as impressive in the flesh – after the obligatory family photos in front of the head we moved on to the Easter Fun.

The additional Easter activities on offer were brilliant. The egg hunt involved finding over 100 eggs (we missed quite a few but still qualified for the chocolate bunny), there were newly hatched chicks to coo over, egg crazy golf, Easter egg craft, cress head making and my personal favourite an egg race. All activities were included in the price and were suitable for a wide variety of ages.

We got to cross the rope bridge, saw daffodils and magnolias, posed in front of the mud maid, climbed over the woodland playground…… Phew! After romping around the gardens for nearly three hours it was time for a late lunch which involved going back out through the entrance. I couldn’t quite believe the size of the queue – there must have been over 100 people waiting to get in. My advice to everyone visiting attractions in the school holidays is always to get there early (unless you are going to Ships & Castles swimming pool but that’s a different story). We had an amazing day and were ahead of the crowds so didn’t have to wait to participate in any of the extra activities.

The end of March even on such a sunny day probably isn’t the best time to see Heligan in all its glory and you can see some of the summer flowering plants coming to bud – but I can’t wait to go back – it certainly gives Eden a run for its money and defiantly worth the trek from Falmouth and now with the Locals Pass it is a real bargain!

www.heligan.com

Fifteen Cornwall

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My original bucket list entry was to start the day with breakfast at Fifteen Cornwall (as I knew they did breakfast and that would be in my budget) but after seeing an advert for their three course Spring Lunch we decided to take advantage of the offer and a lovely day to tick a visit to the Watergate Bay restaurant off the list.

The food was divine – all three courses were amazing especially the rhubarb panna cotta. As we were a party of three we were sat on the slightly raised level rather than right by the window but going out of season meant it wasn’t busy and therefore our view wasn’t spoilt. 

I would totally recommend a visit. Make sure that you go there in the daylight, the vista is stunning and it seems a shame to go in the evening when it is dark. I definitely want to go back – maybe next time it will be for breakfast.

A tip make sure that you put enough time on the car park – it is privately managed and the fines are hefty!

Tuff Enuff – Urban Survivor

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Having completed two Tuff Enuff events in 2015 I was excited to hear of a new event in my home town – even the thought of having a dip in the sea in the middle of February sounded “fun”!!! However, it didn’t quite match the experience of the other two and felt more like a run with a couple of obstacles thrown in (sorry!). Both Jacobs Ladder (111 steps!) and the pillow jump off the ramp were good additions to the standard Tuff Enuff arsenal but it seems like there was a lost opportunity to add a lot more activity  around Pendennis and the Hornworks. I was surprised that the first cargo net was at Gyllyngvase Beach in the final activity zone – rumours were that a number of obstacles were removed due to lack of marshals but it would have been easy to locate nets or hay bales near directional stewards in the moat. By the time we came through the sea element of the event had been cancelled (quite rightly as the currents were extremely strong) however, I had been under the impression that there was going to be an alternative water obstacle for those competitors that didn’t want to swim or if conditions were not suitable so I did feel robbed of the chance to get absolutely freezing cold (sounds mad I know). Being the first year I am sure the organisers have learnt a lot of lessons – it has such potential to be a really great race.

I would still recommend Tuff Enuff on their home courses at St Buryan  to anyone who would like an active challenge but for me to do another urban race I would need a few more guarantees that the promised obstacles and challenge would materialise.

www.tuff-enuff.co.uk 

NMMC Starstruck Supervised Extravaganza

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We are regulars at the National Maritime Museum Cornwall as your ticket entitles you to return as many times as you want for a year. At £35 for a family it is not a cheap day out but considering how often we go back it is an absolute bargin! The current Viking exhibition isn’t as good as the previous Search & Rescue and my two still gravitate towards the RNLI boat, jetski and life-raft which they can climb all over.

Every holiday the museum puts on trails and craft sessions which the kids love and they can play with glitter to their hearts content! Today the craft included these “Nebular Jars” – both my 5 & 7 year olds were able to make these unaided (always a bonus!) and they turned out really well. The museum was also host to a huge Space Odyssey planetarium dome which included an amazing virtual tour of the International Space Station to learn about Tim Peake’s mission. Once again another great day out at the NMMC – we are so lucky to have it on our door step.

www.nmmc.co.uk