Last year we had our first visit to this fascinating house in May and, as it is well known for its dazzling display of camellias and rhododendrons, we caught them just past their best. Much better this time round, although we could try even earlier next year. Because you have to go on set-times guided tours of the house we settled down, whilst waiting, for a cup of tea in the Peacock cafe…… said peacocks were very much visible..We learned more in the tour with a different guide this time. I was desperate to take some interior photos but you can’t, and this is not because the family object, but because the insurance company won’t allow it. Not surprising really I suppose, especially when you consider that the family has probably the finest collection of Reynolds portraits anywhere in one place. One room was indeed stuffed full of them! Interesting to see historic artefacts mingled with the day-to-day bits and pieces of family living. One little story I liked (could be true) concerns the Meissen swan. Apparently the daughter, when very young obviously, overheard a guide telling visitors about it and reported to Daddy that the guides were telling stories….the problem? when told about it she had thought it was mice and swan, and no mice! Some visitors now bring china mice to hide behind the swan.
Catching sight of one particularly magnificent rhododendron through the windows, I was itching to go and see it in all its glory. However immediately our tour had finished, a vicious downpour and hail drove us to our car for some time. Clear skies followed…as often in Cornwall, and out we went………We then started on the circular walk round the whole grounds, about two and a half miles….first looking back at what used to be the main entrance (and still should be in our opinion)…then past the ancient Cornish cross…we were told it is the largest of its type. I was expecting something about twenty feet high, but the head is impressive!all along the walk you pass beautiful camellias and rhododendrons ….and magnolias too at this time of year…and then you go along Moles garden a living memorial to the current inhabitant’s husband, and prettily laid out with absolutely lovely views back to the house..next, past the Palm House, it looks as though said palms outgrew their house!a beautiful lake next….and then, very exciting, well to me, you walk through the Iron Age hill fortThis survives to a height of 3m in places and has terrific views all round as you would expect….then through an area the family call the cathedral……before carrying on down the one mile long main carriage drive lined all the way with mainly camellias and rhododendrons, some spectacular…plenty of woodland plants underfoot only add character at this time of year…bluebells as well as the wild garlic…then just before reaching the house again, two signs to add to my collection….you couldn’t make it up….