I visited Chygurno in May 2015. It’s a privately-owned garden – no tea shop, no toilets – just an honesty box in the porch and a homemade information board. I paid my money, read the history and wandered alone along the narrow paths, brushing past tree ferns and blood-red azaleas*, down into the damp, bluebelled shadows and up into the sunlight for tantalising views of the distant turquoise sea. I didn’t see anybody else until I was driving away down the narrow lane.
According to Katherine Lambert’s Gardens of Cornwall, Chygurno was built in 1908 by two women who offered it as a refuge to fellow suffragettes recently released from prison. Here I’ve taken some liberties since in my book I describe a house that was already old in 1913. I remain true to the suffragette connection (which was indeed the inspiration for my story) although I made one of my gardeners a retired matron to justify women travelling all the way from London to be nursed back to health following forcible feeding.
Further along the coast, I followed another lane down a wooded valley to a small cove. I forget the name of the cove but there was a jetty and a row of white cottages (one a delightful café). I parked the car and followed the narrow cliff path for a kilometre or so and there I came across this stone cross. If my book ever gets published – and you perchance read it – you will discover the significance of this cross.
I’ve not been back to Chygurno. I would like to go one day. I know it won’t be the garden of my imagination – the one to which Charlotte fled, where her wounds healed and where she fell in love – but I don’t think that will matter. It’s still a very special place.
[*This is a lie. I have photographic evidence that the azaleas were shocking pink – but in my memory they were red and when one evening a storm surged up the valley the wind splattered the petals over the lawn like blood. Please indulge me here!]