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Godolphin Estate

Beauty through the branches
Beau­ty through the branch­es

Locat­ed near Hel­ston, Eng­land in the coun­ty of Corn­wall, Godol­phin holds one of the area’s pre­vi­ous­ly most pro­duc­tive tin mines with a 400-year his­to­ry – and now clas­si­fied as one of Cornwall’s Min­ing World Her­itage sites. The grounds include 550 acres of land, an his­toric house with ancient for­mal gar­dens (both from the 16th cen­tu­ry), and sta­bles (from the ear­ly 17th cen­tu­ry). The fam­i­ly pio­neered the use of gun­pow­der to open up the rich mines in the 1690’s.

Today, the house (with added mod­ern fea­tures) pro­vides lodg­ing for vis­i­tors from around the world for three weeks each month, with one week open to the pub­lic. While unable to see the main house due to sched­ule, we nonethe­less toured the impres­sive grounds with nat­ur­al gar­dens and a mul­ti­tude of lit­tle stone cot­tages each with its own pur­pose, inspect­ed a guest room host to a king cen­turies ago, and touched an impres­sive (if slight­ly dilap­i­dat­ed) met­al fire­place guard giv­en the fam­i­ly by King Hen­ry VIII in 1543. With the guid­ance of a most enthu­si­as­tic vol­un­teer docent, we inves­ti­gat­ed recent arche­o­log­i­cal find­ings on the upper floor of the huge (and intense­ly hot) out­build­ing next to the house, includ­ing long-dead rats and bats – at which point this writer had to exit for feel­ing faint, leav­ing part­ner behind.

The Godol­phin Estate rep­re­sents anoth­er instance of grand prop­er­ties hav­ing to pay for them­selves in order to stay alive in one piece and not be sold off for devel­op­ment. The Nation­al Trust gained the lands in 2000 and acquired the house and gar­dens in 2007. Tru­ly a con­ser­va­tion work in progress, it bright­ens the imag­i­na­tion to con­sid­er what a return to its for­mer glo­ry might look like in years to come. The qual­i­ty of light and the rich col­or and tex­ture of the del­i­cate plants (indica­tive of the orig­i­nal era) pro­duces a sense of sim­ple ele­gance for all to see.

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