Dyffryn Dahlias

I’m just back from spending a couple of days in Barry, near Cardiff, with my son. While I was there I discovered a real gem – Dyffryn Gardens, which was once the home of Welsh coal-owners the Cory family but has recently been taken on a 50 year lease by the National Trust. The gardens were developed by John Cory with the help of Thomas Mawson, the landscape architect, and have been restored in recent years.  John Cory’s third son, Reginald, who was a leading figure in the Royal Horticultural Society and a keen plant-hunter, was responsible for the dahlia trials held there between 1913 and 1914. Over 7000 species were planted for the trials and many have been replanted this year to mark the centenary, adding to the wonderful autumn colours of the gardens. As well as the six glorious beds at the front of the house, each with its own colour theme,  others varieties are planted in the garden ‘rooms’ which make up much of the formal grounds. On a lovely, warm, autumn morning the beds were a magnet for photographers and I couldn’t avoid a couple wandering into my own camera lens!

Because of the work involved in maintaining the gardens volunteers were cutting down and digging up the beds ready for winter planting while I was there, even though they looked magnificent and many of the plants were still in bud. However, as they were selling the blooms in the estate shop I was able to come away with a large bunch of assorted dahlias and a pot of unknown colour and variety which I look forward to discovering next year!

I hope to post more from my visit there soon, but felt the amazing display of dahlias deserved one of their own!

Sunday Strolls (4)

I have some catching up to do! I’ve been away for a week or so and Sunday strolls in Pembrokeshire have been on hold but this exploration of Lamphey Palace was just before I left.  Not so far to venture this time as the village of Lamphey is only about 10 minutes away and I pass through it frequently on my way into Pembroke.

Yet another ruined edifice left by the prominent Norman noblemen in this area the palace originated in the 13th century and was enlarged twice until the mid- 14th century,  lastly by Henry de Gower, Bishop of St. David’s. The palace became the countryside retreat for the high-ranking clergy and bishops of St. David’s Cathedral, approximately 30 miles away. As with so many ecclesiastical buildings it eventually surrendered to Henry VIII in 1546. After being held by the earls of Essex for 100 years it fell into the hands of Cromwell and was occupied by his Roundheads where it was used to provide Pembroke with supplies.

Today it is almost hidden along a narrow driveway leading to the neighbouring Lamphey Court Hotel. The lane slopes down towards a pair of abandoned stone gateposts in an outside wall and it’s quite a surprise to find the tall palms growing just inside! Cared for by Cadw (the Welsh equivalent of English Heritage) it was manned by a lone receptionist on the afternoon I visited and other than one couple and two family groups I had the place virtually to myself. It was never crowded as each party arrived and left separately and in between I was alone – plenty of time to roam undisturbed with my camera and clock up 70+ shots!

The building is still an impressive one, with walls, chimneys, doorways and staircases well-preserved. In its day it also boasted an orchard and fishpond as well as the Great Hall, western hall, gatehouse and beautiful Yew tree growing against the outer wall. I can’t imagine that the grounds are ever overrun with visitors – but there are enough hidden doorways and arches to hide most of those who venture inside. Many of the upper rooms and staircases are accessible and there is a wealth of detail to be found for those who like to explore. It was easy to find ledges to perch on and enjoy the peace and serenity of a late September afternoon. Although the sunlight was hazy it was warm and the trees were beginning to glow with a hint of autumn colours.

After an initial walk round I sat outside with a coffee, provided by the lone receptionist from a machine behind the counter, and read up from the information leaflet before taking another look around. Later, as the sun started to fade, the hollow window arches took on a gloomier feel and it seemed time to leave, but I think I might go back when the trees are bare and there’s a frost on the ground – or perhaps even some snow?