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A Walk in the Woods

Words and photographs by Rebecca Bentley

Tehidy is the largest wooded area in West Cornwall, with 9 miles of varying paths that lead you through 250 acres of woodland.  Here you’ll find bluebell-lined rivers in the spring, wildflower meadows awash with marsh orchid and foxgloves in the summer, and swan-dotted lakes all year round. Its criss-crossing paths and trails also lead you to a reclaimed rose garden, through oak woodland and by a cascading stream.

There are a number of footpaths leading off the beaten track towards the South West Coast Path along the cliffs at Portreath if you wanted to venture further afield, but there’s certainly enough to see at Tehidy, with many miles to explore that play out with the seasons.

On a trip here in December, I was welcomed by joyful robins dancing on bare branches and squirrels dashing wildly with nuts to bury. The scenes were beautiful but nothing like spectacular display of colour and wildlife that transforms the park into a watercolour painting come spring and summer.

The easiest of the routes through the park is the circular lakes walk. It’s half a mile long and a favourite amongst families with small children who can get around the lakes within half an hour, provided they don’t get too distracted by the ducks and very friendly squirrels – be sure to bring a bag of nuts. Starting at South Drive car park (there’s free parking at all three car parks), the flat pathway will take you back round again, passing the Park Café where you can stop off for a snack, lunch or afternoon tea.

A path to the left of the café – South Drive car park will be on the right – will take you past what was once Tehidy House. This belonged to the ancient Bassett family, who were among the early Norman settlers and have been linked to Tehidy since the 11th century. The family was highly prosperous in Cornwall in the late 1800s, owning extensive lands and mineral rights in the western region. They created gardens, plantations and hunting grounds on the estate, most of which has been lost in time – including Tehidy House which was destroyed by fire 1919. It was rebuilt and used as a hospital until 1983, when Cornwall Council purchased the land, creating a haven for diverse wildlife through habitat management.

Margaret Bland, who lived in South Tehidy during the 1970s, remembers strolling through the park when it was still a hospital. “I’d walk my dog here every day back then,” she says. “Since I’ve moved away, I make sure to come to Tehidy Woods at least once a year to see the bluebells in the spring and do the long circular walk round the park. The sound of the rooks cawing takes me right back to my childhood – I’ve always loved this place.”

Tehidy House has since been converted into private luxury apartments, and the path passing by its long stately drive leads up to the rose garden which local volunteers have recently been brought back to life after years of neglect. With roses bordering the garden wall and a variety of colourful flowers and shrubs filling the centre, this is the perfect place to lose yourself to the glorious sights and aromas of nature.

The rose garden lies within the north cliffs circular walk, which takes in wildflower meadows and bluebell woods at the North Cliffs Plantation. This is a moderate one and a half hour walk that starts at North Cliff car park and is a favourite amongst dog walkers as some paths – such as the lakes circular walk – do not permit dogs as they can be a hazard to wildlife.

Sites and trails officer Gavin Henderson says: “There are suggested routes of different lengths throughout the park, but people can walk wherever they like. Two other circular walks pass through oak woods, with one short walk and one longer; both are good for birdwatching. There’s a cycle and horse trail too, which takes in the mineral tramways trails from Portreath and cuts through the middle of the park.

“Most people who come here want a beautiful place to find peace and quiet, that they can walk around 365 days a year, free of charge. There’s nowhere else in West Cornwall where you can really do that, and this is a place that everyone can enjoy.”

From August 15 to 31, Rogue Theatre will turn Tehidy into enchanted woodland with their Wild Summer Ball, enthralling visitors with live music, mystical tales and fanciful performances – even acrobatics – and a host of activities and workshops. The Park Café and visitor centre is open daily in the summer from 10am to 5pm, and Tuesday to Sunday, 10am to 4pm in winter.

To find out more about Rogue Theatre’s upcoming woodland events visit www.roguetheatre.co.uk

More information about Tehidy Woods can be found at www.cornwall.gov.uk