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Places To Visit : Gardens : The Old Mill Herbary

The Old Mill Herbary

Helland Bridge, Bodmin PL30 4QR
T: 01208 841206
E: oldmillherbary@aol.com

The Old Mill Herbary is situated in a beautiful valley setting adjacent to a long stretch of the River Camel.  Research has established that Helland Bridge with its adjacent water mills, were part of the Colquite Estate and are mentioned as early as 1586 when the rent was 2/- per annum. There was a Hop Yard of 1 acre in September 1653, with an Herb Garden and Orchard in August 1775. The garden now comprises five acres of semi-wild terraced gardens on a steep south-facing bank. There are ancient woodland walks and a mini Arboretum of approximately 1½ acres sporting some 40 named and unusual trees.

The Old Mill Herbary The Old Mill Herbary - Picture 1 The Old Mill Herbary - Picture 2

We arrived on one on those rare sunny afternoons in August and were warmly welcomed by the owners Brenda and Rob Wurr. Whilst the gardens are the brainchild of Brenda it was Rob who showed us around because Brenda was busy with other visitors. We were first taken to the Arboretum which is down in the valley and bathed on one side by the river. As we let our eyes feast on this lovely array of trees that spread before us, I felt a sense of peace and calm wash through me,  the sound of the water mingled with the breeze was very soothing. I should say that all the trees are worth a mention and I name some which stood out for me: three Mulberrys; a Popular Tremula which is very pretty as it shimmers in the breeze; Nyssa Sylvatica; a glorious Liriodendron or Tulip tree which bears pretty yellow flowers; a Tilia Petiolaris or Lime Tree; and one which resembles a large umbrella, a Weeping Elm; three Acer Scanlons particularly noteable - maybe another element of climate change - the leaves of one of them had already turned to a glorious red and were dropping fast but it was even more remarkable since it was just the one which was behaving in such an un-seasonal fashion!

We walked through the Arboretum noting how fast the river was flowing, admiring its magnificence and on into the ancient woodlands where we were assured in Springtime there would be a carpet of Dogs Mercury, Wood Anenomes,  Wild Daffodils, Primroses and a wonderful spread of Bluebells. Alongside which not unnaturally, an abundance of wild-life and including Nuthatch, Woodhatch, and Warblers. There are also Beehives, the produce from which is delicious honey and can be purchased amongst other goodies, in Brenda’s shop. On our walk through the woodland Rob pointed out things of interest as an example a carving which had been rescued from the river and was now sitting proudly on a tree watching over the wood, nearby where once an old wind-up sluice had been present and whose job it had been to make the mill work.

Strolling on round we came onto the terraces and met with a bed filled mostly with Marjoram upon which there was a buzz and a flutter the like of which I have not seen in a long, long time. Flitting from flower to flower we spotted a vast variety of butterflies, Small Copper, Gate Keeper, Painted lady, Large White, Black Vein White; not to mention the hundreds of Bumble Bees! Moving on from the sublime to the ridiculous, and it is worth mentioning here Brenda has a liking for various statues which she has sited throughout the garden, her inspiration coming mostly from travels abroad. No less so was Bacchus, who she came across in Crete and Greece back in the 1960’s. Such was her delight in this ‘gentleman’ she had a sculpture commissioned and thus the Green Man was born. A handsome beast with a very great attribute, so great, a little girl was overheard telling her mother that she had never seen such a big mushroom in all her life!
Moving swiftly on we found a delightful Camomile Seat on which to rest to catch our breath from the site of old Bacchus! Rob told us they once had a Camomile Lawn but the work in its maintenance was so much that they decided on the seat; and what a delightful addition to the garden it makes.

We ended our tour, passing the bog garden which is a pretty feature with a variety of plants, and met once more with Brenda. We wanted to spend a little time with her since this lovely peaceful spot had all been her creation and we wanted to hear how she came to be so interested all those thirty years ago and how she went about to grow this most enchanting oasis at Helland Bridge. Thus we accepted her kind offer of a most welcome cup of tea and a slice of lemon cake which we enjoyed surrounded by the many plants and herbs (some medicinal), which Brenda has grown from cuttings or seeds from the garden, and which are for sale.

The Old Mill Herbary is a ‘different’ garden in the best possible sense of the word but if you are after Rhodedendrons, Camelias, Azaleas and other usual plants of Cornwall or for a sophisticated café (we were especially invited for our tea and homemade cake) this garden is not for you. It is a refreshing oasis to visit with lots of interesting history from the Estate and the Mill and there are many artefacts to support the stories. Both Brenda and Rob are interesting characters who work hard to maintain this beautiful spot.

We had spent a full afternoon at The Old Mill Herbary and thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it; before taking our leave we bought some honey and a few herbs and Brenda gifted us some corms from the Crocosmia Lucifer which I think are so pretty and which will make a lovely status in my garden.
 

Open April to September inclusive from 10.00 am to 5.00 pm (closed Wednesdays).