Gardens in Cornwall

Family Friendly Gardens

Welcome to our beautiful grounds

Our gardens in Cornwall range from formal landscaping to ancient woodlands. There is plenty to explore, and with so much variety we are perfect for family days out in Cornwall. For those who like circular walks, Pencarrow provides both short and long routes, some with wheelchair access. Kids go free here at Pencarrow, so we remain one of the few free things to do for children in Cornwall!

Pencarrow’s gardens are beautiful whatever the season, starting with our Snowdrop Sundays in February, which are very popular. The true floral season begins in March with a dazzling display of camellias and rhododendrons (more than 400 varieties). Bluebells and wild garlic carpet the woods in May-June and the Memorial Garden provides a stunning summer display. Into the autumn you can enjoy the hydrangeas and ancient trees on the turn, making these gardens ever-changing and always engaging.

Particular points of interest include our Iron Age hill fort, the sunken Italian Garden with a quatrefoil fountain, the ice house, palm house and ancient Cornish cross. We also have a grotto at Pencarrow which is believed to have been a secret meeting place.

The Garden Design

These gardens were designed and laid out between 1831-55 by the radical statesman and later Secretary of State for the Colonies, Sir William Molesworth. He worked on the project with his head gardener, Thomas Corbett. Much of their collection came from botanical explorers such as Douglas, Lobb, and Wallich. The trees are very varied; at one stage Pencarrow’s woodland had a specimen of every conifer, except ten, considered hardy enough for the British climate.

To the left of the Italian Gardens Pencarrow can boast of having the first Victorian rock garden in England. Its great granite stones, now interplanted with shrubs and trees, were carted to Pencarrow by Bodmin Moor farmers. They were pleased to help, grateful for Sir William’s staunch support in Parliament.

Pencarrow has a special relationship with the towering Araucaria araucana. The first large specimen of which was bought by Sir William Molesworth for 20 guineas and planted in solemn state before a house party. Noted barrister Charles Austin remarked upon touching its prickly leaves, “It would be a puzzle for a monkey”. His oft-repeated witticism gave the tree its common name of Monkey Puzzle.

Peacock illustration

Woodland Management

In 2020/21, the estate, in common with most parts of the UK, has been facing an outbreak of  Hymenoscaphus Fraxinea, or Ash Dieback. This fungal disease inhibits the trees’ ability to draw nutrients into the upper branches. Young ash trees are killed rapidly by the disease; older ones can often resist for longer periods before eventually succumbing.

The woodland around the estate has been monitored for over a year, and it has been found that a large majority of the ash trees were infected with the disease and need to be removed. Our annual woodland survey also identified other failing trees that need to be safely felled before they become a danger to visitors. Fountains Forestry UK in conjunction with the estate has applied for all relevant licences and permissions prior to these operations taking place.

A difficult decision

We debated leaving the gardens closed until the project was finished, but took the decision to open because so many people were keen to see the spring blooms in the rest of the formal gardens and to enjoy the grounds. Where the trees have been felled and sections of woodland cleared, we will be re-planting the woods with a mixture of native broadleaf species and other specimen trees. Estates such as Pencarrow cannot stay the same forever. They must manage their woodland to preserve it in a healthy state for future generations.

The timber produced will go into the biomass/firewood industry, with some of the larger timbers possibly going into the furniture/flooring market. We stress that this is necessary management, and not a profit-making enterprise. We love our woodlands as much as you do.

We would like to thank everyone for their understanding and patience.

Italian Gardens in CornwallWildlife to see in our family friendly attractionMonkey-Puzzle Tree
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