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!
This week’s stroll was a hidden corner of Pembrokeshire, buried deep along country roads and single track lanes. I was convinced that I had visited Upton Castle before but none of it was in the least bit familiar so it was a real afternoon of unexpected discoveries. Another Pembrokeshire castle with Norman origins but with little left to see now amongst the later 17th and 18th century developments. The castle is privately owned and not run by any of the usual organisations that own ancient monuments and buildings. As a result the feeling is of entering somewhere that is private, somewhere where it is a privilege to be allowed inside to explore.
The medieval chapel however is a real gem of tranquillity, with an abundance of 12th and 13th century stone effigies of knights and their ladies. The one I’ve chosen here shows some of the fine details and what looks like a tiny hand by the lady’s pillow. I’ve only noticed this whilst looking through the shots I took and, after taking another look at Upton’s website there’s also a tiny foot….. a baby perhaps? I wish I’d taken more notice while I was there….. this could mean a return visit I suspect, before they close down in October for the winter!
The gardens are full of delights…… a wonderful sunken, walled rose garden reached by steps down through a stone arch, where the perfume from the roses comes up to meet you……… a sheltered stone gazebo where you can gaze out at eye level into the roses. An old stone workshop with overgrown windows which look onto the rose garden and leads through to the kitchen garden which is really more orchard. At the end the path leads out into the meadow with an abandoned shepherd’s hut and then into the woodland beyond. I loved the chair carved out of the dead tree trunk, although probably not the most comfortable of seats! The path divides to take you over a bridge and deeper into the woodland, but I took the other direction through the arboretum with its specimen trees.
Unfortunately there was no tea room to take a rest and enjoy the surroundings even more, so after an hour or so I had to move on!
As I languish in rural Pembrokeshire I’ve decided I should get out and about and explore the area while I have the chance. The September weather is wonderful; long warm sunny days, mostly in the low 20s, and clear blue skies are showing the county at its best. Whilst I busy myself with the house and garden during the week, in the hope that a prospective purchaser might walk through the door eventually, Sunday can be a bit of a low point so I’m dedicating Sundays to exploring local places of beauty, starting with the local gardens that are open to the public before they all close down in the autumn! As always my camera comes too!
The first Sunday stroll was a familiar one, to Colby Woodland Gardens, a National Trust property that reaches down to the coast. I didn’t venture that far but the walks vary from the formal walled garden to the oriental garden, meadows along the stream and the woodland paths that lead down to the sea or up onto the valley sides. And, of course, the required tearoom for an afternoon cream tea!
One thing I love about my Welsh house is my Welsh garden. I can grow things here that would never survive in the harsh, Siberian, east coast winds. Each Spring I’ve been able to plant something new, some brought from Norfolk, which go on to thrive, and others I’ve bought locally. The pleasure in returning after a break of nearly two years has been to see how much they have grown and flourished. The agapanthus, in particular, is my pride and joy!
More often than not, while the weather has been so fine, I’ve ended my day sitting in the garden, just gazing at the beauty of the plants. They are big and bold and this evening, as the seagulls wheeled against a blue sky, this was my little patch of heaven!
Once again my rhododendron is about to burst into flower. Not unusual you might think – there are rhododendron buds bursting open in gardens everywhere. But my own specimen is proving to be extremely resilient. In the past 7 years it has moved home 4 times – that’s twice more than I have. It has travelled the breadth of the UK – twice. It has been uprooted and replanted 3 times and currently resides in a very large square tub.
It’s not the best looking example – it’s tall and straggly; it only manages to produce 3 or 4 blooms each year; it leans precariously one way – yet still it flowers.
One day – like me – it will be able to put down roots once more… somewhere where it will thrive and grow, somewhere it can finally call home…….. just as I will.