Today, I made my way to Cornwall to The Lost Gardens of Heligan. Never having been there before, I was really looking forward to exploring, particularly having read 'A Song for Will' by Hilary Robinson and Martin Impey.
When I arrived, I headed for the Melon Yard where extracts from the book were being performed by Jenny Beare and her daughter. Taking the roles of Fred (a stonemason at Heligan) and Alfie, an errand boy, they brought the book beautifully to life in the heart of the garden the men loved so much. Their performance was outstanding and very moving, ending with a roll call of 'The Lost' and 'The Returned'.
Martin and Hilary were in the audience and it was lovely to see them. I was also delighted to meet Candy Smit, the Heligan archivist, who was at Heligan on the day the signatures on the wall were discovered and who supported Hilary and Martin in their research. Wonderfully warm and enthusiastic, she was a joy to talk to!
Armed with my copy of the book, I set off to find the locations mentioned in the letters and used in Martin's illustrations. I started with the 'Thunderbox Room'- the gardeners' toilet- to look at the names on the wall.
Photographs of the gardeners and information about them is posted in various places around the gardens. The potting shed (looking just as it does in Martin's lovely illustration) contains a little display about William Guy, the 'Will' of the title.
I had a fabulous day exploring the gardens both in relation to the book and just as a gorgeous place to spend time. There were so many people there, all having great fun, and yet, I still managed to find peaceful places where I could be all alone and enjoy the beauty of my surroundings.
'A Song for Will and the Lost Gardeners of Heligan' is a remarkable, poignant story and visiting the gardens today really brought the personal histories of these real, 'ordinary' working men to life. A day - and a book- to remember!
You can find out more about The Lost Gardens of Heligan on their website.
'A Song for Will and the Lost Gardeners of Heligan' is one of our longlisted books in the Quality Fiction category. A 'longlist' review of the book will be posted soon.