Even on the dreariest, dankest of days Cotehele is a magical place. For nearly 600 years this medieval-Tudor house was the home of the Edgecumbe family who aquired it through marriage in 1353. In 1947 it passed into the ownership of the National Trust in lieu of death duties. Naturally, December is not the best time to visit, not if you wish to see the main house, or wander in the gardens. But from mid-November to 31st December Cotehele does have one very special attraction that makes it well worth the trip up winding, narrow lanes and into the mysterious Tamar River hinterland.
Every year in the Great Hall, and with a log fire flickering in the grate below, an epic swag of dried flowers is hung from the rafters to brighten the festive season.
The garland comprises one hundred feet of rope dressed with 46,000 dried flowers, all of which are grown on the Cotehele estate. When you step into the Hall there is the faintest scent of summer hay, all of which puts one in mind of old English Hardy-esque midsummer relevry, and brings on a fit of nostalgia for the rustic yesteryear that probably never was.
But it does not matter. As invented traditions go (and the notion for it began in 1956), the garland is beautiful, and a darn sight more picturesque than that other English invention of similar vintage – the Ploughman’s Lunch that is still found lingering dolefully on most pub menus.
The garland takes staff and volunteers two weeks to construct. The base is made up of cuttings from 60 evergreen pittosporum trees. Added to these are statice, grasses, helichrysum, pink pokers, xerochrysum, acrolineum and helipterum. The whole creation lifts the spirits, and in the darkest days of the year, what more could one ask for, that and a delicious bowl of homemade soup in the National Trust tea room?
Cotehele Great Hall
copyright 2016 Tish Farrell