Nestled in the heart of St. Mawgan village is a slice of paradise you’d never expect to see here in Cornwall (or in England, for that matter!).
Most people know of St. Mawgan as the home of Newquay airport (Cornwall’s tiny but incredible useful little airport!), or being nearby to the popular Newquay seaside ‘resort’ of Mawgan Porth, but if you head deeper into the village, you’ll see it’s a beautifully quaint and picturesque parish in its own right. The 13th century parish church and surrounding woodlands and properties feel really magical, and I’d like to properly explore here soon.
But what you don’t expect is that right in the center is The Japanese Garden, a truly authentic space inspired by the peaceful, minimalist gardens you find in Japan. In the late 80s, the site was a Bonsai nursery that was later developed into a Japanese Garden by Robert & Stella Hore, who lovingly designed the space and spent decades nurturing the elements inside. It has since been taken over by their daughter, Natalie and her partner Stuart, who now maintain the gardens and shop.
I am 50% sure I visited these gardens around 10 years ago with my dad, but I have pretty much no memory of it, so exploring it last month with my friends Shannon and Grant was basically like seeing it with new eyes. I was amazed I hadn’t visited since! Alex and I are huge fans of Japanese culture, and after visiting Japan earlier this year and going to some of these gardens ourselves it was great to see such an authentic space here in Cornwall. It’s nice to know I can just visit here whenever I need a reminder of that trip.
Due to the way a lot of the plants in these gardens (such as the Japanese Maple and cherry blossoms) change throughout the season, somewhere like this really needs to be visited several times throughout the year to appreciate the design and different elements. We visited in September, on a beautifully sunny afternoon, which couldn’t have been better!
The maple leaves were a fantastic range of different reds, oranges, yellows, and greens, yet it was warm enough for dragonflies and damselflies to be buzzing around the ponds. I can’t wait to head back in Spring to see how it changes then too.
As you walk around, there’s plenty to see; from bamboo forests, and tori gates, to buddha statues, bridges, teahouse structures and plenty of water features. The focus of a Japanese Garden is typically to achieve a perfect balance between natural and man-made features, as well as balancing the different elements of water and earth through the use of waterfalls, ponds and stones.
You will also find a Zen garden here too, where you can sit and gaze peacefully onto the carefully decorated gravel, stones and moss. When we were in Japan, we were told that these stones can sometimes represent nearby mountains, and are often designed by important artists. It’s very common to walk into one of these Zen gardens and see people sat meditating while looking out at these spaces, as they’re seen to evoke feelings of calm and tranquility.
My favourite part was definitely the water garden area with the tea ceremony viewing platform that looks out over a peaceful koi pond and bridge in the background. As we approached this area, the golden Autumn light was just perfect, and I could definitely sit there all day just looking at the koi carp. These majestic fish are a decorative feature in many Japanese Gardens (and in the moats of many of the castles we saw in Japan too!) and they are so soothing to watch. Each one is like its own unique watercolour painting in the water.
We finished our walk around with a stop in the Japanese Garden gift shop. They have their Bonsai nursery out the back with some incredible Bonsai trees available for sale (I’ve tried looking after one of these and it’s HARD, but definitely a labour of love), as well as other plants, and inside they have some really nice, unique gift ideas (not just plants) so that’s worth taking a look too.