Wanderlust UK – September 2019

(Nancy Kaufman) #1

98 wanderlust.co.uk September 2019


t’s like
& Amazons
meets Enid
said Mike
of the Isles of Scilly’s world-famous
Tresco Abbey Garden. “If you have
kids, you can let them explore and not
worry about them. Or you can be a kid
yourself, look in rock pools and take
a boat between islands. Where else can
you get a beautiful beach to yoursel„?”
Not that I was in a rush to explore
a beach; at that precise moment
I was huddled in the Garden’s cafe,
my hair and clothes dripping from
the heavy rain that was lashing down
outside. I had woken that morning
to a thick fog and the conditions had
deteriorated quickly as I approached
the former abbey’s grounds.
“We live the weather here,” smiled
the charismatic Mike. “We get
a variety of conditions over the year
but that’s what makes it the Isles of
Scilly. It could be really windy, or it
could be thick fog like today, or it

could be sunny and you’ll suddenly
think you’re in the Caribbean.”
There was little chance of the latter
that day, but I could see how the
island’s gardeners would love it. “By
use of shelter belts and microclimates,
we can grow anything,” said Mike,
“from New Zealand tree ferns, which
need lots of water, to plants from
very hot places that require hardly
any water at all. It’s a mix you’ll see
nowhere else. They grow well because
we don’t get cold here. We generally
have over 300 different types of
plant in flower on New Year’s Day.”
Admiring the luxuriant foliage – and
the red squirrels introduced to its pine
trees – it was hard to believe there was
once hardly any vegetation here. In
1834, Augustus Smith took over the
leasehold of the islands at a time of
great poverty and set about reforming
their running. He built schools,
restructured the farming industry and
generally raised standards. He also
settled on Tresco and created a
wonderful garden in the grounds of its
Benedictine abbey. His descendants
still lease the island today, andthe
garden attracts visitors fromaround
the world, drawn to its mix of ⊲
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