GOGG HOLIDAY TO NORTH WALES 2023
33 members, friends and relatives joined us on June 26th for the 2023 GOGG holiday to North Wales and Anglesey which proved a most enjoyable tour. The very hot weather in most of June had cleared away to give rather cloudy but mainly dry conditions making garden visiting much more comfortable.
Our first visit on the way up to North Wales was to the National Trust (NT) owned Erddig estate near Wrexham. This large spacious garden has a lovely walled garden and colourful borders to enjoy and, like many NT gardens is now much more wildlife friendly and there are large areas where swathes of grass have been left uncut. Here. particularly around a long artificial pond there were lots of wild orchids and other wild flowers as well as butterflies and dragonflies. From Erddig we continued along the North Wales coast to our hotel for 4 nights, the Chatsworth Hotel on the seafront of the attractive seaside resort of Llandudno.
A beautiful drive along the coast road west with mountains to the south and the sea to the north on the second morning brought us to our next garden, the University of Wales (Bangor) botanic gardens at Treborth. This was a last-minute substitution but proved a most interesting visit. In the various glasshouses were a wide variety of exotic plants, including spectacular pitcher plants whilst outside there were colourful borders and wild areas with plenty of orchids and other wild flowers. The site also includes a large area of natural woodlands stretching down to the Menai Strait. Despite the short notice, the staff at the gardens were most welcoming and helpful. From here we drove across the Menai Bridge to the NT garden of Plas Newydd on Anglesey. This is a large and colourful garden with walks to the shore of the Menai Strait. There is an attractive terrace garden with lovely views across the water to the mountains of Snowdonia. There are plenty of wilder areas of grassland and woodland including a Coronation Meadow which already has plenty of wild flowers and was attracting meadow brown butterflies despite the cloudy conditions. From here we returned to Llandudno along the beautiful coast road seeing the lovely views from the other side of the coach!
Our third day began with a visit to what was probably the star attraction of the holiday, the lovely NT gardens of Bodnant one of the greatest gardens in the country. The gardens have been extended and developed considerably over recent years including a new tunnel under the main road connecting the new car park to the gardens. There is so much to see but perhaps the colourful, rose-covered terraces overlooking the artificial lakes with the Carneddau mountains in the background is still the highlight for me. At one end of the lakes is the pin mill which was moved to the gardens from the Stroud valleys. However in such a wonderful garden there is something for everyone to enjoy. After lunch here we returned to Llandudno where there was some free time to look around the town or take the tram up to the Great Orme where some members visited the historic copper mine.
The fourth morning again found us travelling the coast road west to our first garden over the Menai Bridge on Anglesey. The Hidden Gardens of Plas Cadnant have only recently been re-created and proved a great revelation with many in the party actually preferring it to Bodnant.
The garden was opened an hour early just for us and the owner gave us a talk about way the garden has been brought back to life in the last few years. At the top of the garden by the house a walled garden has been developed which is full of colour and interest whilst beyond is a wild area around a mountain stream. The closeness of the garden to the Menai Strait means that the garden is relatively frost free allowing many exotic plants to thrive in the wooded ravine area giving a similar appearance to some of the Cornish gardens like Trebor which run down to the sea. After leaving Cadnant we again crossed the Menai Strait to our next garden at Penrhyn Castle. The castle is a huge Victorian pile in the style of the great Welsh castles built by Edward 1st such as Carnarfon and Harlech and is surrounded by a large area of parkland. The property seemed strangely low key for a NT property as there were no maps of the estate available and we were told that the property would close at 4pm leaving us only 2 hours to explore. The first problem therefore was to find the way to the large walled garden located in a shallow valley a short walk from the castle where Pat had reported that we would find an archway covered in fuchsias. This again shows the frost-free nature of the area. Returning to the castle for a cuppa we were able to stroll in the parkland with its lovely views of the Snowdon mountain range. I for one could have done with the extra hour here that I had anticipated when I planned the trip!
Our final day saw us set off south for a drive through the Snowdonia National Park with visits to 2 gardens to look forward to before heading home. Unfortunately as we drove into the mountains the weather closed in and restricted the views to the valleys and lower slopes of the mountains. Our first stop was at Plas Brondanw the former home of the architect Clough Williams Ellis who created the famous Italianate village of Portmeirion just down the road. This proved to be a really charming house and attractive garden. The garden was designed to take advantage of the location by creating a series of mountain vistas but unfortunately the cloud cover prevented us from enjoying the views to the full. The huge blue flowered hydrangeas were, however, a sight well worth seeing. In the afternoon we travelled on into the eastern part of the park to visit the garden at Caerau near Bala. At over 1000’ this is the highest garden open to the public in Wales and proved to be a really excellent coda to the tour. There were colourful borders near the house and a lovely wild area higher up the garden where despite the cloudy conditions, many ringlets were flying amongst the long grass. Before leaving most people enjoyed a cake and a pot of tea served in china cups and saucers. This was a pleasant contrast to the thick earthenware mugs used by so many catering establishments these days and a lovely end to our holiday.
Our hotel in Llandudno was clean and comfortable with reasonable food including, after a lecture to the chef from Sue and Elaine, some tasty vegetarian dishes. They were dealing with up to 7 coach parties and, although the staff were very helpful and efficient something had to give and some of the food was a little below standard. There was live entertainment each evening for those who did not prefer a stroll along the wide, traffic-free promenade to a real ale pub! As usual Barnes and their driver, Paul, looked after us very well so that we didn’t miss our usual driver, Sheralyn, who had obviously received a better offer to go to Ireland.