Eight years in the making, CyHerbia in Avgorou provides a great day out for all the family in among 3,000 lavender plants and a maze. ALIX NORMAN does her best to keep a sense of direction
I feel like Alice. There’s a white pathway stretching in front of me, shaded by tall green hedges on my right with black cypress trees on the left. A somnolent lizard regards me haughtily from his spot in the sun, skittering into the shadows as I approach. The air is bathed in the smell of lavender. Rounding the corner by the wishing well, I come upon a class of nine-year-olds. They’re bubbling with excitement as they fly past me to the whitewashed tearooms, trailing teachers in their wake. As the last one disappears I can see the gardens spreading out to the horizon. To the left, a quiet path winds away into a forest of olives and cypress. In front lies the start of the maze, muted calls drifting mysteriously from between the high green hedges. And directly in front, islands of aromatic herbs float on a lake of rich purple lavender.
The CyHerbia Gardens have been eight years in the making, and it’s been a real labour of love for Miranda Tringis. The venture was originally her husband’s idea, and she explains his vision was to create something that would last for generations to come, a living legacy for the children of the future. “It’s been a labour of love that has stretched our faith like nothing else,” she smiles, gazing out over the gardens. But the blood, sweat and tears have more than paid off, and the place is an oasis of green amidst the baked earth fields of Avgorou.
“The life lessons involved have been invaluable,” she continues. “Working with nature’s rhythms teaches you patience, wisdom and faith. But we are doing what we love, and maybe that’s the secret of this place.” Opened to the public in September 2012, word of mouth has ensured that even on a sleepy Friday morning, the place is alive with visitors: sunhats bob above the herbs, toddlers’ feet twinkle through the undergrowth, families quietly browse in the cool of the shop.
As Miranda looks on with a smile, the thirty odd schoolchildren are quietly completing their worksheets and enjoying herbal tea in the cafe. “This is the fulfilment of the dream,” says Miranda, nodding towards the children absorbed in their learning. As a clinical herbalist (you may have seen her on CyBC, she hosts a regular spot on the Good Morning programme) her goal has always been to educate people about the benefits of nature, and it’s to this end that she has designed an extensive and exciting educational programme for younger visitors. As well as worksheets and guided tours for school groups, children can visit the butterfly sanctuary, take part in an I Spy game round the Herb Garden and complete a Treasure Hunt in the Maze. “I loved the maze!” says Med Junior student Raphaella, who’s bursting to share her experiences. “There were hidden objects everywhere!”
Her friend Zoe (who informs me that she is “exactly eight and a half”) solemnly agrees: “It’s amazing! I could smell lavender everywhere, and I learned lots of things in the Herb Gardens. You should go there!”
Taking her advice to heart, Miranda and I set off around the nine Herb Gardens, each of which is themed according to its occupying flora. In the Bath Garden grow herbs such as lavender, rosemary, sage and geranium and Miranda explains the use of each in salts and soaps, for therapeutic, relaxing or invigorating baths. We pause at the Medicinal Garden while I learn that marjoram lowers blood sugar levels, ironwort helps with flu and aloe vera heals the skin, and spend a fragrant 15 minutes in the Aromatic Garden amid the rose, lavender and geranium from which Miranda distils her essential oils (visitors can watch the extraction process up close at the onsite distillery, and purchase the end product from the shop). There’s even a Pest Control Garden, and I learn what I should be planting and using to prevent mosquito bites, combat aphids and deter beetles.
“Everything in the gardens is organic,” says Miranda as I repair to the cool of the tearooms for a glass of refreshing herbal tea, and peruse a menu bursting with healthy meal choices of quiche, soups and ice cream – all of which are made on the premises and utilise herbs from the gardens we have just traversed. There’s also a huge variety of items in the shop, everything from essential oils to soaps and teas, and Miranda and her assistant Lisa are kept busy explaining their uses to enthusiastic browsers.
Much refreshed by my glass of lemon balm and lemon verbena iced tea, I take a stroll round the Woodland Walk, designed in the shape of the island. Starting at Karpasia, I amble westward along the avenues of cypress towards Kyrenia, pausing to read the plaques en route, which give facts about the trees and bushes along the walkways, as well as information on major cultural sites, such as Bellapais Abbey and St Lazarus’ Church in Larnaca.
And then it’s on to the Cyprus Maze, and I’m lucky Miranda has rejoined me, as it’s been fiendishly designed. The hedges tower high above my head as my guide traces her way, and again I feel like Alice, lost in a Mediterranean Wonderland. I’ve completely lost my sense of direction as we twist and turn along the white paths. The route is punctuated by small statuettes of protected bird species, part of the treasure hunt.
“Kids love searching for the birds, and the game helps to raise awareness of the island’s wildlife,” says Miranda as we stand atop the tower at the culmination of our labyrinthine route. Looking over the gardens, breathing the fragrance of lavender on the breeze, I can appreciate the extent of the vision that has gone into creating such a haven. From up here, we can see the whole of the grounds. The whole of Wonderland.
For more information visit www.cyherbia.com or www.facebook.com/CyHerbia or call 99 915443. The CyHerbia Lavender Fest runs from June 15 – 30. CyHerbia has over 3,000 Lavendula angustifolia (Enlgish lavender) plants, which flower in June and July. You can also taste homemade lavender delicacies, buy lavender essential oil and watch the extraction process. Entrance (including tea tasting) to the CyHerbia Gardens is €5 for adults, €3 for children aged 5-12 and free for under-fives