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Travel: Crumbling El Dorado for a Sussex surrealist

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Deep in the Mexican jungle, an Englishman created an extraordinary garden, crammed with concrete follies and clouds of blue butterflies. It remains a strange, seductive place, finds Ivo Dawnay

Its location is almost the most surreal thing about it. Edward James’s Las Pozas, the billionaire English eccentric’s jungle garden, deep in Mexico’s Sierra Madre mountains, is at least four hours, and a few hundred hairpin turns, from anywhere. To get to it from the mollycoddled, middle-class ghettos of Mexico City, it takes about the same time as flying to New York, and twice as long as the hop to Miami. Hardly surprising then that, while everyone has heard about it, few have actually visited – discomfort being unfashionable in fashion-conscious Mesoamerica. Yet it’s worth the trip, involving passing over three mountain ranges and climates – first arid, cactus-filled semi-desert, then temperate Alpine woodland and, finally, tropical forest. And the garden itself is, well, extraordinary. Edward James was the quintessential poor little rich kid, born in Sussex in 1907, the heir to an enormous fortune. His early memories were of...

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