A chance encounter with a posting on Cornwall Live’s website took us on a bright October day in search of another Cornish curiosity: the Tivoli gardens in Lerryn. The website tells the story well.
It describes ‘fountains, arches, bandstand and swimming pool, appearing unexpectedly through the trees and undergrowth’ on the edge of a remote Cornish village. We agree with the undergrowth and degree of surprise but the plurals are perhaps generous.
Around 1920 a China Clay magnate, Frank Parkyn, who was born in the village in 1850, began work on an elaborate park, following a visit to the Danish Tivoli. The scale is very different but one had to admire his ambition in such an inaccessible area of Cornwall.
Mentally removing the trees, rhododendron and laurel bushes, it is possible to make out a long – perhaps as much a 200m – relatively level platform about 50m above the level of the creek just on the edge of the village.
The first structure one comes across is a plunge pool which would have been about 1m deep.
Three arches act as a backdrop to the pool. Like all the structures, they are crudely constructed of concrete blocks inset with large lumps of quartz which might have twinkled in the right light. A small ‘altar’ stands to one side, leading to fantasies about ‘druidic priests’ appearing through the arches and beheading hapless chickens on the ‘altar’ stone while loyal supplicants underwent ritual washing in the pool.
A short distance up the hill is the large water tank which acted as a header for the pool.
Passing a concrete monolith of unknown purpose, and several trees which seemed out of place in a Cornish beech wood – such as cypress and monkey puzzle – we reached the far end of the terrace where stands the bandstand and the giant fountain.
The band must have been very small for their stand is a small circular structure which was, apparently and sensibly, re-purposed as a rose garden.
Just beside it is the grand fountain.
This is a splendid structure and rather larger than the version shown in the early photographs on the Cornwall Live site. Someone had helpfully cut back the shrubs so that the whole water tank was more visible. The main decorative elements of the central structure had sadly decayed but you could get the idea.
What did we make of this very un-Cornish gem? It is bold to name it after one of the earliest and greatest amusement parks in the world, covering many hectares but ambition should be rewarded, not mocked.
As a place to discover on a lovely sunny day, it was enormous fun. The sunlight flooded the floor of the wood, filtering through the autumn leaves. We met two other couples who were on the same quest and together we hunted for the remnants of Frank’s vision.
Remove all the trees between the terrace and the creek and the views would be magnificent: truly a place to promenade on a warm evening or shaded from the heat of the sun.
Finding the site was ‘interesting’. Google has two dropped pins close to the site which is just on the border of the village. The tell-tale hint from the air is the line of six trees on Google Earth which are obviously not the prevailing beech or oak.
The article talks of grand staircase and an entrance arch. We found neither and would recommend an innocent-looking path from a little creek here. It just takes courage but the effort is worth it.