Heligan Celebrates BTCV Contribution to Garden Restoration

The Lost Gardens of Heligan has marked the major contribution of two past volunteers, George Crumpler and Jean Griffiths, with an anniversary tree planting ceremony.

21 years ago (1991) the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers held its first volunteer holiday at Heligan. Although the BTCV used to organise outdoor working holidays all over the country, mainly clearing ground of overgrowth, those at Heligan soon proved to be more in the style of an archaeological dig, as structures and artefacts were discovered almost day on day.

The teams were led by George Crumpler, who had already volunteered for the BTCV for a number of years, supported by Jean Griffiths. The two of them devoted their energies to working holidays at Heligan between 1991 and 1994, unearthing the original paths around the Northern Gardens and discovering numerous now features.

Working conditions were often literally ferocious, gradually making in-roads into mountains of thick bramble, but George trained all his volunteers in the safe use of tools and working systems to conserve energy. A plume of bonfire smoke would always signal their whereabouts.

One of the earliest projects at Heligan was the restoration of the Italian Garden. This territory was completely overgrown, with no evidence of either summerhouse or pool. The original laurel hedge had consumed the whole area. On top of this, an enormous Black Walnut had fallen in the Great Storm of January 1991. George recalls that one of his first tasks was to clear this – and the recent tree planting, 21 years on, has provided a long over-due replacement in tribute to his services.

A second tree was planted in memory of his colleague Jean Griffiths, who passed away two years ago, and the supporting teams of volunteers. This is a Cork Oak, selected to replace a specimen that is reported to have existed outside the Head Gardener’s Office back in the 1950s. In another 21 years, these should be two impressive and unusual specimens.

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