European money offers new life to one of Cornwall’s Great Gardens

One of Cornwall’s historic ‘Great Gardens’ is to undergo further restoration and take on a new regional role, thanks to Objective One.

A project from Trebah Gardens, near Mawnan Smith, has been approved for a £540,000 grant from the European Regional Development Fund – a decision that will allow the charitable trust running the 26-acre garden to also take up a £1.39 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Together, the two grants will provide £1.93 million for restoring and replanting areas of this famous sub-tropical ravine garden which leads down to a beach on the Helford River and contains glades of 100-year-old tree ferns as well as unusual botanical specimens from around the world.

The money will also be used to improve visitor and educational facilities – including a 120-seat lecture theatre that will be used by the Royal Horticultural Society for demonstrations and other events.

Johnny Dean, director of the RHS garden at Rosemoor in North Devon, said: "The RHS welcomes the new facility at Trebah and looks forward to being able to use it for some of its regional events."

The RHS organises an extensive programme of demonstrations, events and activities for gardeners of all levels at colleges, nurseries and 60 partner gardens across the country.

Mr Dean added: "Many of our events in the South West are held at RHS Garden Rosemoor but we look forward to continuing the good relationship we have with Trebah, as one of our partner gardens, by supporting its new scheme."


The existing buildings at Trebah, including café, shop and plant sales area are to be demolished in September and the site bulldozed and re-landscaped. Extensive new visitor facilities will then be provided – along with the lecture theatre – in a single, purpose-built centre.

The attractive new building has been designed by Jonathon Saunders of Caroe & Partners to fit into the contours of the landscape so that it will be almost completely hidden from view. It will have a sloping copper roof that will naturally turn green, camouflaging the building even further.

The horticultural compound where new plants are grown is also to be restored and expanded – allowing Trebah to both grow more of its own plants and take on a greater training and education role. Work on the compound will begin in March.

The Trebah project should lead to a 32,000 increase in annual visitors to the garden in the off-season period and create eight new jobs.

The restoration of Trebah was begun when Arnhem veteran Tony Hibbert and his wife Eira bought the garden in 1980 – at the time of Major Hibbert’s retirement, aged 65.

Major Hibbert was delighted with the news of the grants: “The garden has given me a purpose in life that I never had before.”

He added: “This is what we’ve been working towards for 20 years. This will ensure Trebah’s future as a garden for visitors and as a centre of excellence and will secure it for many years to come.”

Further information about Trebah can be found at the website www.trebah-garden.co.uk or by contacting the garden on 01326 250448.

For more details about Objective One, call the programme’s Helpline on 0800 0280120 or visit the website www.objectiveone.com


Editors notes:

History of Trebah

Trebah Garden was laid out by Charles Fox of Falmouth in the 1840s and over the next century, was owned by only two families, the Fox's and the Hexts. The garden was planted with specimens from around the globe brought back by the ‘plant hunters’ of Victorian times and Trebah became renowned as one of Cornwall’s Great Gardens, gaining an international reputation.

However, in 1939 the original estate was split up and over the next four decades Trebah changed hands on average every six years and the garden fell into great neglect.

The present occupants, Tony and Eira Hibbert bought Trebah in 1980 and began to restore the garden. In 1987, Major Hibbert and his wife opened the garden to the public and by 1990 visitor numbers to Trebah reached the estimated break-even figure of 50,000.

The family then set up the Trebah Garden Trust and donated to it the garden, house and Trebah Lodge. A Council of Management elected annually by the 1,000 members of the Trust includes experts from the Royal Horticultural Society, National Trust, Cornwall Gardens Trust, Cornwall Gardens Society and experts in many fields and is responsible for the management of the garden and all its ancillary operations.

Trebah’s other place in history came during the Second World War, when its private beach on the Helford River was used as the embarkation point for around 6,000 troops of the 29th US Infantry Division, prior to the D-Day assault on Omaha Beach.

Future plans and the seedcorn effect

For the first 10 years of its existence the Trebah Garden Trust’s activities were all concentrated on the struggle to stay alive and build its numbers up to a break-even point. These grants will now enable the Trust to look outwards to help others.

Being a Charitable Trust all monies generated by Trebah must be allocated to fulfil the Objects of the Trust, which are:

a) To preserve enhance and re-create for the enjoyment of the public the gardens of Trebah and such other properties for which the Trust may accept responsibility.

b) To promote the education of the public on matters connected with the arts and sciences of garden land.

It will remain Trebah's policy:

  • that no new building or activity will be allowed which will in any way encroach on or damage the present peace and beauty of the garden.

  • to work with the local schools and educational establishments to create a better understanding and love of gardens and the arts

  • to create stable year round employment for up to 40 people and to work with the local hotels and accommodation providers to build up an out of season tourist trade which will benefit Cornwall's economy

  • to work closely with all Cornish gardens and garden associations and to exchange information and to offer any assistance which may be relevant and requested.

    The Trebah Garden Trust regard these grants, for which it is extremely grateful, as seedcorn from which will grow such a crop that will secure the future of this uniquely beautiful and botanically important garden and will spread out to help other gardens and establishments and stimulate the Cornish economy as a whole.


  • Jason Clark
    Communications Manager
    Objective One Partnership Office
    Castle House
    Pydar Street
    Truro TR1 2UD
    Tel:01872 241379
    Fax:01872 241388