GOGG HOLIDAY TO SOUTH-WEST WALES, 2016
About 35 members and friends joined the GOGG holiday in July visiting gardens in Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire in Wales.
Our first stop for refreshments was at Abergavenny and, with the sun shinning, the surrounding mountains looked beautiful. However, this was a false dawn and by the time we reached our first garden, the National Botanic Garden of Wales (NBGW), the sun had disappeared although the weather remained dry and warm for our visit. We have visited the NBGW before but it is always worth a visit with its spectacular Great Glasshouse containing a variety of tropical plants from across the World and its superb double walled garden which was full of colour from a wide variety of plants as well as a large selection of veg. Of great interest in the smaller greenhouse within the walled garden was a collection of tropical butterflies which seemed at home amongst the collection of tropical plants. After a most pleasant afternoon we continued to Tenby the principle seaside resort in Pembrokeshire where we stayed four nights at the Cliffe Norton Hotel situated on the cliff top promenade overlooking the North Beach and Harbour.
The next morning we travelled the short distance to Picton Castle where we were met not only by our guide, but by the joint founder and former chairman, Mike Garlick who now lives nearby (see cover of the previous Allagog). Mike was in good spirits and stayed with us for the day chattering to old friends as well as visiting the day’s two gardens for the first time. The Castle itself was most interesting and the 40 acres of gardens colourful and varied especially the walled garden where there were some fine echiums. After lunch we moved onto Treffgarne Hall where we were given an interesting introductory talk by the owner. The walled garden contains many delicate species although a recent hard winter had killed off some of the most exotic tropical plants. Although the formal structure had been designed professionally, the informal planting was that of the owners. Situated on a south-facing ridge by the time of our visit the weather had deteriorated with cloud and some rain. The garden contained a number of unusual sculptures including dragons(?) pictured on last month’s cover.
The third day involved rather more travel to two gardens in the North of Pembrokeshire. After a beautiful drive we arrived at the Crystal Garden near St. Davids for our morning visit. This garden is situated on a high and very windy plateau and has been designed as a series of “rooms” with high hedges. Despite this protection, the garden still seemed very windblown but we were made very welcome and provided with tea and caked by the owner. The centrepiece was a diamond crystal shaped structure made of scaffolding poles. From here we returned to St. Davids, the smallest city in the UK where we were able to have lunch and take a quick look at the beautiful cathedral. From St. Davids we travelled north-east along the coast road past Fishguard to the Dyffryn Fernant gardens. Situated at the foot of the Presceli Hills, this is a beautiful and inspiring garden which fits naturally into the surrounding National Park landscape. The formal gardens around the house were full of colourful flowers both common and unusual and there were also walks into surrounding marshland, woodland and a lake. The sun was at last shinning and in the warm sunshine, we were able to sit in secluded spots in the gardens enjoying a splendid (if rather expensive) afternoon tea surrounded by lots of colourful plants.
The following day saw a return to the cloudy and damp conditions which typified the trip but both gardens visited were situated in deep sheltered valleys which seemed to escape the worst of the conditions encountered on the higher land. The first garden visited was Upton Castle and here we were met by the owner who gave us a short tour of this 35 acre garden containing lovely woodland walks as well a more formal gardens. Unfortunately, the rose garden was past its best but the huge walled kitchen garden was being developed with orchard and vegetable planting and there was plenty of colour in the herbaceous borders. The afternoon visit was to the National Trust owned Colby Woodland Garden which although designed for school visits contained some interesting and colourful planting and of course, an excellent National Trust café. The walled garden sloping up from the house was very colourful and contained a gazebo at the top. As well as the flower-filled walled garden, there were extensive walks around in the valley bottom and in the wooded hillside.
The following day we departed from Tenby and headed back into Carmarthenshire to visit the Lost Gardens of Aberglasney which are gradually being restored to their former glory. The Group visited the garden about 15 years ago when it was first re-opened and it has changed out of all recognition since then to become one of the most varied and interesting gardens in Wales. The Upper Walled Garden was full of colourful planting whilst the lower Walled Garden has been developed as a vegetable garden. The walks into the higher parts of the garden were very attractive and the Nefarious (indoor garden) was quite spectacular. However, Stella and I were most taken by the planting in the woodland garden and felt that the red astilbes there would be ideal in our garden!
The journey home from Aberglasney continued along the northern fringe of the Brecon Beacons National Park with a stop for a cream tea at the Mountain Centre near Brecon. Unfortunately, cloud cover prevented us from enjoying the wonderful view of the Beacons from the Centre but there was plenty of interesting material about the National Park to look at before continuing our journey home after an excellent 5 day tour.
Once again the arrangements made by Barnes Travel worked well and we again enjoyed the benefits of Sheralyn as our driver and courier who does so much to make the trips a success. The hotel was of a reasonable standard and very efficient although they had a tendency to “regiment” us. The food was of a higher standard but the vegetarian offering although better than in previous years was rather uninteresting. The Hotel bar was comfortable and had well-kept Felinfoel Double Dragon on hand pump for the real ale fans to enjoy. As always it was a very friendly group and hopefully we will again have a good turnout for our 2017 holiday at Weymouth.