Saturday, 12 September 2009

Secret gardens and castles - Wales Part III


I saw many wonderful gardens during my brief sojourn in Wales and have already featured two of the large, well-known properties that are extremely well publicised and much visited, so for my final post on Wales, I am going to focus on three gardens not so much in the public eye and all currently being restored, re-planted and improved - so expect to see changes if you visit.

Time and distance would not allow you to visit them all in a day, but you might want to make a special visit to my first entry - Cae Hir - because it is a truly charming garden! You won't find huge glasshouses, extraordinary specimens or restored cloisters, but you will find a garden planted with love by a Dutchman, Wil Akkermans, who has passed his extensive love and knowledge of plants to his two children. This is a garden to wander slowly round, and sit on one of the many benches, looking at the plants and the trees - it is extraordinarily peaceful.

Covering just six acres, the main garden is behind the house and on a hill - this part has reached maturity and is filled with beautiful trees and plants, but still retains an informal air. You wander from room to room and each vista brings new plants, but it still feels like a secret garden and you constantly emerge from trees to see another view. There is also another large area, under development (above), with ponds and streams and this has the potential to be another Beth Chatto garden - so watch this space!

Another garden that I visited briefly was Upton Castle - way over in the West of Wales, and you'd have to make another trip unless you combined it with Picton Castle or Colby Woodland garden. This is a haven for walkers and is approached by a winding pathway through a magnificent wood. Very much under development at the moment, but the rose garden is lovely and I know that this will be a real gem in years to come and I shall visit again.

The third garden that really surprised me was St Fagans Castle in Cardiff. Hidden away behind the National Museum of Wales, this garden is unusual because it's free! You walk through a charming hilly wooded area to access the castle grounds and suddenly see the most magnificent vista before you - stepped terraces with statues and water pools in the valley below.
Walk up the steps the other side of the valley (right) and you arrive in a different world! This is not the domain of coach parties, observing vignettes of Welsh life, this is a garden, which feels as though it's been overlooked. But it's charming and uncrowded and is like a secret garden, hidden from the crowds visiting the museum.

This is an historic garden under restoration with terraces; a Victorian rose garden that has has recently been replanted; an avenue of bleached limes, a tunnel of hornbeam and a box parterre. This is another property under development and will, I'm sure become top-rated in years to come. At the moment, it has an air of being forgotten, and this is part of its charm. The castle - which is actually a gabled 16th century house - looks slightly run down, but forms a good backdrop to the formal gardens (below).
Don't be put off by the crowds when you arrive at the Museum here - it really is worth walking through to St Fagan's Castle to see the gardens - they are delightful!

13 comments:

  1. Lovely post... I especially love the first two gardens ... with what appears a bit of magical abandon... secret gardens as you say... Thanks for the tour. I love your blog... in case I have not said that before.

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  2. I just don't know any other superlatives to use. I have very much enjoyed these garden tours.

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  3. When I was in Wales 12 years ago I was not part of a coach tour to castles, but saw the many great ones nonetheless. But I missed the gardens! I also went to France and was part of the coach tours--and felt bad about it--but it was so affordable; I saw the gardens but missed the castles. Looking at other posts, I've wanted a rill for a long time--it's going in the next house my goodness. Yes it is. Lovely posts! Love coming here.

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  4. Your photos make me long to be back in the midlands of Wales.

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  5. Thank you for coming to visit my blog. I'm so impressed with all the wonderful places you visit and photograph so well.

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  6. These are lovely gardens and your photos and words make me want to visit them. My dh and I visited Wales years ago and saw castles and stayed on a sheep farm and we would enjoy another visit.

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  7. Splendid pics. reminds of old times.

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  8. I think Fagan's Castle is a must for me, not too far from here and it looks delightful.

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  9. Beautiful post! I love that last photo.

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  10. All the gardens you have described sound beautiful and really worthwhile to visit. The first one CAE HIR looks like a garden after my heart. It is fantastic that you can go and visit all these gardens.Are you thinking about a book about the gardens you have visited. Sometimes I know there are many gardening books published
    that have beautiful photos of gardens but most of the time the gardeners soul and passion is missing.

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  11. Thanks for posting at MacGardens. It helped me discover your two blogs. I fully intend to return to Wales for some more garden discovery and I'm confident I will return to your descriptions. I also like the quotes on Life in a Day. -- jw

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  12. What a gorgeous oasis! It reminds me of a monet painting!

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  13. Well we're looking forward to seeing you here at Veddw House this Autumn. But don't buy my book ("Discovering Welsh Gardens" published by Graffeg) before you come cos I will sell you one at a discount!
    Charles Hawes

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