Wandering Around Cotehele House In The Rain ~ Traces Of The Past


Cotehele House in the Tamar Valley in Cornwall began life around 1300 when it was owned by a family of the same name. Fifty years on, a marriage delivered it into the Edgcumbe family who owned it for the next (almost) 600 years. These new owners remodelled the house in the 15th, 16th, and 19th centuries, as well as building themselves another (their principal) house further down the Tamar River at Mount Edgecumbe.

In 1947 the 6th Earl gave the house to the nation in lieu of death duties, and it is now owned by the National Trust, one of their more atmospheric  properties. It was particularly atmospheric on the rainy May day when we were last there, and also on the rainy December day when we went there to see the famous Christmas garland.


15th century Gatehouse


The house has extensive grounds. In the 16th century there were two parks and orchards. The 1730s estate map also shows a bowling green, and the dovecote of the first photo. This dates from around the end of 16th century. The lantern top provided access for the birds, which were of course cropped for meat.

The gardens we see to today were most shaped in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and extend to around 6 acres: lovely even on a wet, and gloomy Cornish day.






Thursday’s Special: Traces of the Past

The Cotehele Christmas Garland


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