The land of milk and honey

Not to mention Brazilian rhubarb, Koi carp, bamboo glades and Tarzan's Camp - can this really be Cornwall?
The Lizard peninsular in Cornwall is the most southerly point in the British Isles. Almost completely surrounded by water, the dramatic, bleak cliffs of Lizard Point contrast starkly with the soft, misty lushness of the Helford river which marks the peninsula's northern boundary. Blessed with a mild climate and bursting with places to explore, it is a great spot for families.

Together with some friends and our four young children, we started our journey just north of the Helford at Trebah Garden. Trebah is an extraordinary, magical, old Cornish garden, planted in the 19th century on a steep ravine that drops sharply to a private beach on the river. Everything in the garden is massive, from the magnificent trees that stand sentinel along the cavernous banks of the valley to the giant tree ferns, palms and rhododendrons that dominate its centre. The children were thrilled by the huge eight- foot-wide leaves of the Brazilian rhubarb plants that drooped over our heads.

Running down the centre of the ravine is a stream. It flows through lily ponds full of shimmering giant Koi carp, through the bamboozle - a huge glade of thick-stemmed green bamboo - and then winds through two acres of luscious pink and blue hydrangeas. At the bottom of the valley, the stream and the visitors spill on to the beach to contemplate a view over the mouth of the river Helford, small sailing boats scudding across the water.

The beach is an ideal spot for a picnic and the boys stormed about, pretending to be the American soldiers who set sail from Trebah, bound for the D- Day assault on Omaha Beach in 1944. Playing soldiers was fun, but by far the best bit of Trebah for the children was the jungle trail and Tarzan's Camp.

Tony and Eira Hibbert, the owners of Trebah, have six grown-up children and lots of grandchildren, and they obviously know how to make little boys and girls happy. Tarzan's Camp is set beneath a gigantic tree canopy with knotted ropes, ladders and wooden frames for climbing overhead and soft bark chippings to cushion any falls. Ben, four, loved it, stripping off his T-shirt and hurling himself about like his hero, George of the Jungle.

Wrenched away from their fantasy, the children napped as we drove off to Tregellast Barton Farm where the Roskilly family have been making mouth- melting Cornish ice cream since 1988. Joe Roskilly, his wife Rachel and their three children have made their farm into a haven of organic dairy farming. The signs that hang at the farm entrance - which smelt strongly of silage - warn of "free range children and animals", and Joe Roskilly has made a delightful walk for visitors across his fields. He dug out the lily ponds himself; the willow trees in the withy woods were planted hundreds of years ago to make crab pots.

The farm shop and tea rooms sell all the different flavours of Roskilly ice cream. "Clotted cream vanilla" was my favourite - rich without being sickly - but other treats included "hokey poky crunchy caramel" with sticky lumps of caramelised sugar, "ginger faring" and a simple "raspberry" that was perfectly tangy and tart. The ice cream is scooped out of the tubs with big flat spoons and dolloped generously over the sugar cones, unlike the mingy little scoops that you usually get from ice-cream stalls.

After stuffing ourselves, we went to watch the 90 honey-coloured Jersey cows being milked in the automated milking parlour. The children were fascinated to watch the milk gushing out and along transparent plastic tubes to the milk storage tanks. The cows themselves seemed perfectly contented as they munched on their pellets and stared at us with big, liquid-black eyes. Alfie, five, gawped at the cows for ages but then said he wanted to go somewhere else as it smelt a bit "ponky". In search of fresh sea air, we drove down to Kynance Cove near the Lizard Point, the most southerly spot on the peninsular. We parked in the National Trust car park that perches at the top of towering cliffs and looked down at the beautiful jagged coastline around us.

Down in the cove, we stared across at the huge, olive green boulders that jut out into the sea and took off in search of the caves hidden under the cliffs and only accessible at low tide. As we peered into the dripping, slimy darkness of the caves, the waves were crashing fast up the beach behind us.

Concerned holidaymakers called out "don't get cut off" and we dashed back over the rocks and up the steep steps to the safety of the clifftop cafe, our pockets stuffed with beautiful, green-veined pebbles - excellent souvenirs of our delightful day on the Lizard.