We’re not one of those ‘hike up Mt Kilimanjaro, then paddle board down the Amazon’ type of families, but we do love to get outside and explore the gorgeous local parks and woods that surround where we live (Lil Sis moans every time, but always ends up enjoying herself).
We spent Christmas on OH’s granddad’s farm in Devon and the unseasonably warm weather meant we had a lot more options than previous years, when we’ve stayed huddled in the house, warmed by the roaring open fire.
After Boxing Day cabin fever was setting in, so we decided to take a drive over the county line to Cornwall. The weather was ridiculously gorgeous – an ethereal early morning mist giving way to endless blue skies. There was a place we’d been a few years earlier that we’d always vowed to return to, called the Lost Gardens of Heligan.
We’d stumbled on it almost by accident when the girls were younger, and had been blown away by this lush little paradise, tucked into a valley near the coastal town of St Austell.
Thought to have been first established in the early 1800s, the gardens were reluctantly abandoned after the outbreak of the first World War, when the men who worked there were all called up to fight. It didn’t take nature long to reclaim the land; the neglected gardens became overgrown and, over time, were completely forgotten about.
They remained ‘lost’ until being accidentally uncovered again in the 1990s.
A team of devoted volunteers lovingly uncovered and brought the gardens back to life, restoring the original designs and adding modern amenities, including sculptures, gift shop and a lovely café.
This really was the perfect way to blow away the Christmas cobwebs, for the kids to get some fresh air and for the grownups to start walking off all that wine and cheese (ah, but it was worth every calorie!).
It was also the ideal opportunity for the girls to try out the Keen Terradorra kids’ walking boots we were sent late last year. Gone are the ugly black boots of old, these versions come in four fab main colours (aqua sea, duck green, boysenberry and gargoyle grey). They’re lightweight, rugged and waterproof, and have a breathable membrane for greater comfort (goodbye uncomfortable, sweaty feet!).
We received the mid-height boots (so they reached up to the girls’ ankles), one in duck green/quiet green, with bright red highlights, and one in boysenberry/red violet, with aqua blue highlights.
Both girls are super fussy about shoes that dig into their skin, but the first thing they both noticed (after squealing about how cool the colours were) was how comfy these versions were: a soft, padded rim around the top of the shoe prevented the seams from rubbing uncomfortably on their ankle bones – something they’d often complained about with other shoes.
From a mum-point-of-view I loved that the boots offered great ankle support (especially helpful, since the girls seems to have inherited my hypermobility, and – as a direct consequence – ankles that tend to give way without warning – have you read about my accident-prone life?).
They also had elasticated pull-tight toggles in place of fiddly laces (utter genius!), and a sealed inside that made them completely waterproof. No more soggy socks and freezing toes by the end of the day.
Our Heligan Gardens trip was the first time the girls had worn their boots, so I was a bit nervous about them doing a lot of walking before they’d broken them in. Pretty much the last thing you need at the bottom of a steep gully is two kids complaining they have blisters and can’t walk back, right?
But it turns out kids’ walking shoes have advanced in great strides (see what I did there?) since I last had to break in a pair, as we walked solidly for over two hours without a single whinge. Curious, I ended up asking: ‘How do the new shoes feel – they’re not rubbing are they?’
‘No, Mummy,’ they chimed back, ‘they’re SUPER comfy.’
After looking at the map, we decided to take the Woodland Walk past the garden’s quirky outdoor sculptures and down to the intriguingly area named ‘The Jungle’. It’s not how you’d usually describe the Cornish landscape, yet, within minutes, the temperature had become noticeably warmer, and we found ourselves surrounded by giant leafy bushes and towering tree ferns.
Continuing deeper into the lush vegetation, we found ourselves in a totally different world overlooking a series of ponds connected by a gently rushing stream. Looking further down the valley, we could see a rope bridge suspended over the water. If we didn’t know Cornwall was waiting for us at the top, we could have convinced ourselves we were in Bali or Singapore.
We navigated the wobbly Burmese rope bridge across to the other side of the valley, then walked back up, visiting the Home Farm petting zoo and the formal gardens, before stopping for hot chocolates in the lovely on-site café on our way out. If you fancy something more substantial, the menu includes a variety of delicious, home-made dishes, many created from produce grown and meat reared on site.
The planting and renovation work is continuous, and there is a calendar of special events, which means there’s always something new and interesting to see at the Lost Gardens of Heligan.
We drove home happily exhausted, filled with fresh air and already planning our next trip back.
GETTING PIGGY WITH IT: read about our visit to Kew Little Pigs micro pig farm
• our Keen Terradorra kids’ walking boots were provided for review