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  • Writer's pictureGethin Thomas

Mount Edgcumbe Country Park

This month we went to Mount Edgcumbe Country Park which had been on our list of places to visit. It is tantalisingly close to Plymouth but is just out of reach on the other side of the river Tamar. If you are on the Devon side of the Tamar you can see it but you have to cross by a ferry to get there.

You can catch a pedestrian ferry from Royal William Yard or drive over on the much larger Torpoint Ferry. On this occasion it suited us better to drive over.

The Tor Point Ferry is a big operation and there are usually at least two ferries plying their way back and forth. Today there were three, and they operate 24 hours a day and 365 days a year.

The river Tamar is the physical border between Devon and Cornwall although this was not always the case as you will find if you check out my post on the nearby twin villages of Kingsand and Cawsand.

Even the seagulls take the ferry.

Torpoint is an eighteenth-century planned town. The grid-based design for the town was commissioned by Reginald Pole Carew in the Parish of Antony in 1774. His family continue to have a strong influence in the area, having become the Carew Poles in the twentieth century, and still reside at their family seat, Antony House.

In 1796 Torpoint was the setting for a shooting battle between the crew of a government vessel, the Viper, and a large party of armed liquor smugglers, in which one person was killed and five people seriously wounded.

Due to the presence of Devonport Dockyard, the town grew as Dockyard workers settled there. The establishment of the Royal Navy's main training facility, HMS Raleigh also increased the population of Torpoint.

This is the Orangery restaurant at Mt Edgcumbe. This was where we started as we had a table booked.

The Orangery in the Italian Garden is thought to have been built as early as 1760. The building is now a fully licensed restaurant.

We have just been through the hottest driest period of weather since 1976, so bearing that in mind, this formal garden looked stunning.

Formal Gardens - From c. 1750 to 1820 - gardens in Italian, English and French styles. New Zealand, American (1989) and Jubilee Gardens (2003) have now been added.

A Regency period creation of around 1803, the garden contains geometric flowerbeds which are defined by well trimmed box hedges. In the most prominent position you will find a beautiful shell fountain.

In 2011 a new formal garden was designed and created by the staff at Mount Edgcumbe to utilize the discarded stonework and garden ornaments that had been scattered throughout the Park over the years.

Mount Edgcumbe Country Park is listed as Grade I on the National Register of Historic Parks and Gardens and is one of four designated country parks in Cornwall, England, United Kingdom. The 885 acres (3.58 km2) country park is on the Rame Peninsula, overlooking Plymouth Sound and the River Tamar. The park has been famous since the 18th century, when the Edgcumbe family created formal gardens, temples, follies and woodlands around the Tudor house.

Blockhouse - c. 1545 - a small fort built on the shoreline in King Henry VIII's reign, to defend the mouth of the Tamar and the Edgcumbes' town of West Stonehouse opposite.

Garden Battery - c. 1747 and 1863 - an 18th-century saluting platform, originally mounted with 21 guns to greet visitors. Re-built in 1863 as part of Plymouth's Naval defences, with granite casemates for seven large 68-pounder guns.

The fascinating and endangered Black Bee is the UK’s original native honey bee. Dwindling populations are currently found only in remote areas of the country. However, an almost pure and distinctive population has been identified by the B4 Project on the Rame Peninsula. The discovery has generated a great deal of excitement.

The B4 Project aims to conserve our native honey bee and its aims are supported by the Duchy of Cornwall. A dedicated team of staff and volunteers here at Mount Edgcumbe has undergone a training programme which has enabled them to acquire all the skills necessary to maintain a healthy and productive apiary. The reserve combines bee hives with an observation centre and clever planting to provide the bees with sustenance year round.

Cremyll Ferry - c. 1204 - a major passenger ferry crossing between Devon and Cornwall since medieval times.

Originally created in the early 18th century The Rose Garden would have been a flower garden. There still remain structures that would have been green houses and frames where flowers would have been “brought on” for use in the House. The present rose garden was created in the 1970s and contains a range of David Austin old English Roses.

The park also contains the villages of Kingsand and Cawsand, as well as Mount Edgcumbe House itself. The Formal Gardens are grouped in the lower park near Cremyll. Originally a 17th-century 'wilderness' garden, the present scheme was laid out by the Edgcumbe family in the 18th century.

The park and Formal Gardens are open all year round and admission is free. The park and gardens are jointly managed by Cornwall Council and Plymouth City Council. Although the park covers a large area, the park has limited formal maintenance. This gives it a rough and ready rural feel in all except the Formal Gardens.

You will feel like you have entered another world in this peaceful garden. Surrounded by architectural palms and shrubs this area, also known as the pet cemetery, was a favourite of the family and now houses some of their faithful friends.

The House was built between 1547 and 1550 to a revolutionary design for that period, built to look outwards for the views rather than be inward facing. Local Staddon Grit with its distinctive red colour was used for the walls whilst carved granite was used for the facings. The stylish ogival (curved to a point) leaded windows used throughout give the House a very distinctive look.

“Built nearly 100 years before the Mayflower set sail in 1620, the Tudor style mansion stands at the top of an equally ancient double avenue of trees.”

The view has changed a bit since 1547.

Created beside the Tudor House in the 18th century this well established garden contains ancient and rare trees including a 400 year old lime, a splendid Lucombe oak, and a Mexican pine. Set amidst classical garden houses and an exotic shell seat, colourful flowers and heather grace the recreated Victorian east lawn terrace, which has spectacular views over Plymouth Sound.

The Edgcumbe family can trace their ancestry back over 600 years. It was a timely match when Piers Edgcumbe married Joan Durnford in the 15th century and thus acquired the land on which Mount Edgcumbe now stands.

It created an opportunity to build a house of a size and stature befitting of an increasingly influential family and placed the family firmly on the main route of travel between Cornwall and the rest of England.

In 1515 King Henry VIII issued a license to empark the lands and over 500 years later descendants of the original herds of fallow deer can be seen roaming in the Deer Park.

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