The Mount Edgcumbe gardens have several follies and former fountains. To start with the biggest folly of all – the house. In spring 1941 Plymouth suffered several days of bombing and the destruction was widespread. On 22 March, incendiary bombs set the building on fire. I’ve heard that the house was lit up to save the docks and the rest of the city, but to no avail, as the German bombing continued into April and much of the city was destroyed.
Piers Edgcumbe, second in line to the earldom, had died at Dunkirk the year before. When his father Kenelm inherited from his second cousin, the fifth earl, in 1944, the house was a bombsite, the gardens had been destroyed by American GIs, and death duties were crippling. The new earl, already in his seventies, gave Cotehele, which had been the Mount Edgcumbes’ original home, to the National Trust and supervised the rebuilding of the house within its original Tudor footprint and in its original Tudor style.
From the house, one reaches this grand folly, the Temple of Milton, built in the early nineteenth century. It’s practically at sea level, at the foot of the valley called the amphitheatre.
The inscription inside is from ‘Paradise Lost’
Shortly after you reach the ruined church that is actually called the Folly. It looks like a genuine ruined church from a distance but was constructed of fragments of churches from Stonehouse. So it’s almost the real thing…Built around 1747, it’s in a terrific position with amazing views across to Plymouth. You can see part of Drake’s Island, which deserves a post of its own at some point. As does Cotehele, when we’re out of lockdown.
The other follies are picturesque seats – and one so unpicturesque that we call it the bus shelter, which is a bit unkind to bus shelters. It’s officially the harbour view seat; yes, you can see the harbour, and the ferry crossing between Torpoint and Devonport, and it’s a seat – but my goodness, it’s hideous. Apparently it used to be pillared. I’m not clear whether that would be an improvement or not!
Another seat, though, just above the tennis courts belonging to Fort Picklecombe, where we live, is much prettier. It’s also very welcome after climbing the steep path up from the courts!
I love the faintly ecclesiastical feel, and the view out across the sea is glorious.
The last folly I shall write about we had passed several times before we realised it was indeed the Arch. The ground has fallen away so much that the path is technically closed, with fallen trees left lying where they fell, and passing the Arch requires a bit of scrambling, which is probably why we hadn’t noticed it before. Pictures from 1791 show a wide path with a plain arch. This is what we see now:
You can see the narrow path and the elaborately roofed former seating area, now blocked off. You will need to look closely at the next picture to see part of the original arch:
Those are the follies of my title. Along one of the many paths one can take – it’s where we tend to go for our daily permitted exercise, and there are many different walks – are a couple of rather elegantly built fountains, with the water now tapped off.
My next planned post will be about fallow deer. Thank you for reading, and please subscribe for more about our corner of Cornwall. You should be able to click ‘follow’ by going to the end of the post and looking for the box on the right hand side.