Antony Woodland Garden is one of the most beautiful, and least known about, gardens in Cornwall. Just a ferry ride away from Plymouth it is a haven of serenity and peace, and the perfect place for a pleasant walk, a picnic, for children to explore and also for plantsmen (and women) to enjoy the magnificent variety of plants.
The garden is home to over six hundred different varieties of camellias all growing in an idyllic setting. They range from the graceful species Camellia tsaii to varieties of Camellia sasanqua, saluenensis, williamsii, reticulata and japonica. It is an “International Camellia Garden of Excellence”, one of only four in this country, and holds the National Collection of Camellia japonica. There is also a wonderful collection of nearly two hundred and fifty different types of magnolias and a good many other ornamental woody plants including hydrangeas and rhododendrons.
During the spring the extensive glades and walks of the garden are covered with drifts of wild flowers; celandines, primroses, bluebells, campion and garlic, as well as some rarer plants that flourish in these conditions. Wild bird life also feeds on the rich mud flats of the Lynher River and throughout the year, oystercatchers, grey herons, egrets, cormorants and shelducks can be seen. Kingfishers at the Bath House pond, dart across the surface of the water whilst mullet swim beneath. Buzzards and kestrels are commonly seen hovering overhead.
Antony Woodland Garden is divided into two areas covering sixty acres. The first area is called The Wilderness, a wooded area leading down to the banks of the tidal River Lynher. This landscape, created in the second half of the 18th century, is a compromise of ideas formed by Humphry Repton and the Rt. Hon. Reginald Pole-Carew who were great friends and this is set out in Repton’s Red Book for Antony.
Lieut. General Sir Reginald Pole Carew, (son of the Rt. Hon. Reginald), planted many colourful hybrid rhododendrons in this area after his retirement from the army. His son, Sir John Carew Pole, carried on with this, planting a greater variety of shrubs such as camellias, magnolias and rhododendron species and more modern hybrids.
West Down Wood is the second area of the Woodland Garden and should not be missed. It is in a narrow wooded valley that was made into a woodland garden starting in about 1947. A little was done each year. The planting consists mainly of glossy evergreen camellias of considerable variety with amazing Asiatic magnolias emerging from that green understorey, like terrific torches.
These two main areas are joined together by the Garden Field – a mixture of ornamental trees under planted with flowering shrubs and daffodils and a path through betulas completes the link along the rivers edge.
The Woodland Walk is a countryside walk beside the River Lynher and through the woods and pastures. A path leads under light woodland beside the river and across pasture to the Fishful Pond. This is an enclosed estuarial inlet, originally intended to act as a fish trap and was designed by Richard Carew (1555-1620). It contains fresh water and is a good habitat for reed buntings and other flora and fauna. This is where the River Lynher flows into the Tamar Estuary. Views can be seen across the River Tamar of Brunel’s Royal Albert Rail Bridge. Follow the path, past a badger set, across a causeway, by a ruined dovecot and back to the entrance. Dogs on leads are allowed into the Woodland Walk for Season Ticket holders.