“A Garden Lost in Time” is the apt title of the book written by Penny David. This book truly describes the heartbeat and mystery of this House and Garden nestling in the Towy Valley near Llandeilo.
Its history spans over 500 years, in fact just before Henry Tudor became Henry VII according to the Bard Lewis Glyn Cothi who spoke of ‘nine green gardens’ somewhere around here! But the name Aberglasney came about when the house was built by Bishop Rudd and his son in the mid 1600. The house and gardens have had a chequered history but it is the survival of the garden structures that were originally built which makes Aberglasney so remarkable today………..
Although the weather was decidedly damp, 18 of us met in the Car Park at Aberglasney at 2 p.m. Once through the turnstile we were introduced to our guide John Evans. John is extremely knowledgeable and very enthusiastic about Aberglasney and he obviously he enjoys his role. John gave us a potted history of the house and gardens, right up to when the house and gardens were endanger of disappearing forever. This was in 1995 when the house was derelict and the gardens so overgrown it was impossible to see any structure whatsoever. This was when the Restoration Trust came to its rescue. I am not going to give a history lesson but urge and encourage you to visit. It is a truly magical. However I will give a taster of what you can expect when you
. On with our tour of the garden:- There is a story to be told just on the Ionic Portico but I will leave that to the reader to investigate but opposite you will see the most magnificent Yew Tunnel. Many have been fooled as to the age of the Yew as it looks gnarled and very very old but in 1999 dendrochronology put the trees at around 250 years old so it is known that they were planted by Robert Dyer or his sons during the 1700s.
From here we passed the Gate House. Although the Victorians thought this to be a picturesque folly, built in the 1800 its origins were in fact much earlier – around the 1600s. Recently a diaper-patterned cobbling was revealed and leads from the Gate House to the Cloister Garden and the parapet walkway which is unique as others are now only found in records of lost gardens. The garden is very formal and was fashionable around the time Queen Elizabeth 1 was succeeded by the Stuarts. There are even Orange Trees growing in containers which was apparently the done thing with the Stuarts! .
Underneath the Parapet on the western edge of the Cloistered garden is a long arcaded walkway – the cryptoporticus which when you walk through, gives onto the Pool Garden. Apparently in time gone by ponds of this nature would be for breeding or stocking fish, but in later years would be just ornamental.
The plants in the gardens are quite wonderful in particular a really old fashion rose. Rather beautiful and with a sensational scent!
From Pool Garden we now wander into Upper and Lower Walled Gardens. Both walled gardens would have been for growing vegetables for the consumption of the household. No refrigerators in those days. But now the Restoration Trust has just laid the Lower Walled Garden into traditional quartered divisions for leafy vegetables and colourful flowers for cutting.
The Upper Walled garden was given over to the eminent garden designer Penelope Hobhouse. She conceived a new design loosely based on an old plan of concentric ovals contained in an oblong which also gives form of a Celtic Cross. This can be viewed beautifully from the parapet walkway.
Uphill to the south and east lies Bishop Rudds Walk. This is a woodland walk and at the time of visiting there was a mass of Trilliums and the most stunning Primulas. Sadly due to the hot April the azaleas and rhododendrons were almost over.
As we walk back towards the house we pass the restored aviaries which in times gone by apparently housed golden pheasant.
And then for the finale………….
The Ninfarium - This is a unique garden that was created in 2005. The name Ninfarium was derived from the amazing garden at Ninfa. (South west of Rome) The garden at Ninfa was created by a family called Caetani who had connections with South Wales. Within the wreckage of the central rooms and courtyard of the historic mansion the remaining walls were stabilised and the entire area was covered with a huge glass atrium. Within the garden you will find beautiful orchids, Palms, Magnolias and Cycads.
What an experience! Aberglasney has it all, the history, archaeology, gardens and plants (and some for sale at the plant shop) and yes it even has a café!!
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I am Diana Vickers, the site owner of thebestof Carmarthenshire. This was launched in Carmarthen town in June 2008, to support the very best of the area’s businesses with their promotions and marketing....