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The Lost Gardens of Heligan are open daily with pre-booking essential for all visitors including Local Pass Holders

Rare Breeds Month

In a year where many livestock shows and exhibitions have sadly been cancelled, Heligan Home Farms’ Livestock Team are getting ready to be able to celebrate and highlight all the rare breed residents who call Heligan their home.

This September, join us at The Lost Gardens for a variety of displays, demonstrations and talks, where you will get the opportunity to enjoy and learn more about these very important animals and the role they have within our historical landscape at Heligan.

It all started 30 years ago, not long after Tim Smit and his family had relocated to Cornwall, when the family’s first trip to the county’s Royal Cornwall Show turned into a pivotal moment. They spent most of the day captivated by the rare breeds tent and its inhabitants and not long after that they rehomed two pot-bellied pigs, Horace and Doris. It was the start of a lifelong love affair of rare breed pigs for Tim and inspired him to want to create a rare breeds farm in Cornwall.

Whilst searching for land to home his vision of a rare breeds park, Tim came across the Gardens and Estate at Heligan. The discovery of the gardeners’ names on the wall of the Thunderbox Room along with the date 1914, changed the course of travel and Tim was fired by a passion to restore The Gardens. The Lost Gardens of Heligan has gone on to become Europe’s largest garden restoration as well as the ‘'Nation’s Favourite Garden’.

Pigs are a favourite on Home Farm with staff and visitors alike. We all find it impossible to choose a favourite between our cheeky Berkshires, the curly Mangalitza’s or the characterful Old Spots. To kick off our month of rare breeds action we will be welcoming a large variety of pig breeds to Heligan’s third annual Native Pig Weekend on Saturday 11th and Sunday 12th September.

Last year the glorious Tamworth’s were voted the most popular breed by our hordes of visitors. Which piglets will leave you squealing with delight this year?

Following the pigs are the horses, with the ever-popular Working Horse Weekend returning to The Lost Gardens of Heligan on 18th and 19th September. For one weekend our historic estate celebrates heavy and working horses and the work they carry out on estates, farms and woodlands across the southwest, and the skills of horsemanship that have sadly become less regularly seen.

In 2019 Heligan welcomed several Heavy Horses to raise awareness of these magnificent animals, and of their continued decline in numbers. This year Heligan invites visitors to turn back the clock to a time when horses were in place of any machinery and maintained a focal point of the working Heligan estate.

Proudly in collaboration with The Cornish Heavy Horse society and The Exmoor Pony society, this two-day working theatre of heavy horses and rare breed ponies will work around Heligan and its Estate, in the same way they would have done over 200 years ago.

Heavy horses played a pivotal role in the agricultural and industrial revolutions, working in the fields, mines, docks, quarries and mills, and alongside the canals and railways. At the turn of the 20th century, 2.6 million horses were at work in agriculture and industry. Following two world wars and the introduction of tractors and lorries, numbers declined dramatically, reaching an all-time low in the 1950's with some breeds nearing extinction.

The Tremayne family lived at Heligan from around 1600 and documentation has been discovered that details the large number of horses stabled at Heligan and used to farm the fields, to pull timber from the woodlands and their ample manure piles used to fire up the pineapple pits! The creation of the Georgian ride enabled more direct access for horses carrying produce, equipment and supplies destined for Heligan house.  Alongside the farm work, horses were the primary mode of transportation locally and outside of Cornwall and provided recreational opportunity as well, with many family members taking up riding, and enjoying travelling their estate in carriages.

This two-day event will enable visitors to get up close to these impressive horses and watch them in action working across the Heligan estate and providing demonstrations within our paddocks again.

The ever-popular Blacksmith demonstrations shall take place on both days within The Barn, as Heligan Farrier Rob Barnbrook showcases his phenomenal skills.

The most popular of all of our animals is Courage, our gentle but giant young shire horse. This weekend will see him step in to the role he has been long in training for, as he demonstrates the skills of logging within the woodlands and estate. Do join us for his moment in the spotlight.

This event is supported by RBST Cornwall and The Cornish Heavy Horse Society, and staff will be on hand to offer information and advice about Heavy Horses and Rare Breed Ponies, and to let visitors know how they can get involved!

As if this wasn’t enough, 2021 will see the first year of Heligan Woolly Weekend take place. If you love sheep as much as we do, then this is the weekend for you. Saturday 25th and Sunday 26th September.

Make your way to The Barn to meet a variety of visiting rare breed sheep and learn more about these estate lawn mowers, why they are so important and the conservation breeding programme that Heligan proudly works hard to complete.

There will be skilful and entertaining one man and his dog demonstrations and the always fascinating Sheep shearing demonstrations

Meet the team to discover more about what we do with our wool and fleeces, and enjoy the variety of beautiful products within our shop that have been produced on Home Farm.

With a menu sure to set the taste buds alight, visit The Heligan Kitchen or Estate BBQ to sample the finest rare breed meats accompanied by fresh produce from the garden, and sample for yourself the delicious quality of eating native meats produced with ethics and care at its heart.

All of our Rare Breeds Month activities are included within Garden Entry. To book a visit, please click here.

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