Wales Fam 2011
Sept 8th - 13th, 2011

September 12th, 2011
Our time was coming to a close yet we still had a couple of fantastic places to visit….

National Botanic Garden of Wales

The last time I had been here was 2002 and my, how time had changed things…for the best! It was a joy to see the plants in the great glasshouse, designed by Lord Foster and how they had matured. A wonderful place to visit. They have an amazing collection of over 8000 different plant varieties, spread across 560 acres of beautiful countryside. Our guide, David Hardy, is also the Head of Marketing and Communications. A new post for him and is he excited!

They have developed a stunning range of themed gardens that appeal to a wide range of visitors, from those who just love the sight and smells of flowers to those who want to know about medicinal plants or the latest DNA research into plant evolution.

Waters of Mars, one of David Tennant’s last appearances as BBC TV’s Dr Who, was filmed in the Great Glasshouse, and watched by over 10 million viewers. Over two chilly evenings in February 2009, the BBC props department transformed the Glasshouse into a giant Biosphere, where the first human colony on Mars have been infested by a strange life-form which causes their bodies to gush copious amounts of water

They are trying out some new green technologies and ideas to combat climate change and reduce the resources that they use. They have even created a new cartoon character, Lili Lloyd, to illustrate these ideas. Lili is based on the Snowdon Lily (Lloydia serotina), a lovely white flower that grows on the hillsides of Snowdonia in North Wales. It is likely to become the first plant in the UK to become extinct due to global warming.

A great place to take the family and spend the day or just come by yourself and get lost in the beauty of both the gardens and the surrounding countryside. They have a very, very good guidebook so be sure to get it when you arrive.

From here we went to Aberglasny. Now I had never been there before and so wanted to see it. It should be on your must visit list as this again, was another jewel in the crown for Wales.
Spectacularly set in the beautiful Tywi valley of Carmarthenshire, Aberglasney House features one of the finest gardens in Wales. Aberglasney Gardens have been an inspiration to poets since 1477. The story of Aberglasney spans many centuries, but, the house's origins are still shrouded in obscurity…and the most surprising it that not a whole lot of people know it exists.

There is a huge amount of history on this garden and as we toured through it, was stunned at its beauty. The house was stunning too and it is still in the early stages of renovation. To them the gardens are the important part and they want all their efforts put into the garden. The house will evolve as time and money dictate. So for the time being, in the house, you go to a few rooms that are under restoration then you enter another room that you think will be the same but instead they have taken this room and made gardens out of it…the roof was off so why not make use of it until time changes things. It was like going into a secret garden that no one else knew about. A garden filled with ferns, palms, cycads, streptocarpus and orchids…stunning. It’s called the Ninfarium and developed in 2005 and derived from the famous garden at Ninfa in Rome. It now has a glass roof against old stone walls and windows, it was enchanting. As you moved around you were surprised with every turn.

Outside the Cloister Garden is such a gem, I doubt you will ever see anything quite like it because it was discovered in the late 1990’s that the parapet walkway was indeed a survivor of a style of garden architecture that is now found only in records of lost gardens. The upper and lower walled gardens are full of history with them first being developed to feed the family and household needed before the advent of refrigerators. The lower garden is now divided into vegetables and flowers for cutting but the upper garden has been transformed by Penelope Hobhouse. Now it sees evergreens, old and modern varieties of perennials, climbers and shrubs. You can look down on this garden as well for a view of the concentric ovals contained in a rectangular walled garden.

There is much to see and this is the type of garden then you must take your time in…it’s history demands it.

Aberglasney Restoration Trust
While Aberglasney’s very existence was unknown to the world in general (many local people remaining unaware of it), a small band of enthusiasts of historic houses and gardens had long kept an informal watching brief on the property, noting its decline with increasing concern. Eventually they formed the Trust, and at the eleventh hour realized their ambitions to save Aberglasney when an American benefactor (Frank and Anne Cabot) donated the purchase price. This primed the pump for a grueling series of feasibility studies and grant applications to give Aberglasney a new lease of life.

The ambitious restoration strategy has drawn on the skills of experts in many spheres. All available sources were examined to uncover Aberglasney’s history, but much remained (and still remains) unknown. Only when repairs were well underway and the stone structures made safe could major archaeology begin. Findings in 1998-1999 proved that the Cloister garden did indeed date from the late Tudor and early Stewart era. The process of discovery continues, just as the exciting new plantings grow into place bringing new life to old spaces.
Aberglasney is changing and growing - a garden lost in time no longer, a garden of past, present and future.

All I can say is that I would have loved to have been working at this very beautiful and historic garden to be there when all these secrets are found…what an adventure and what a legacy the Cabots have left.

It should also be mentioned that they now have two 5 star holiday cottages to rent so you can stay there and pretend this is your place as you look out onto the sunken gardens.

Some history on Frank Cabot

Our last hotel on the tour was the Cawdor in Llandeilo, West Wales. Each of the hotels rooms are different and after we all got our keys we went about visiting each others rooms to see what they were like…gorgeous!! My room was named Pencader, named after Pencader Castle, and it had a lovely four poster bed and chaise lounge. The Cawdor, one of Carmarthenshire's landmark buildings is now one of Wales' leading boutique hotels. It is a Grade II listed Georgian building and has played ‘a pivotal role’ in the history of Llandeilo.

Needless to say the meal was exquisite and since it was our last dinner together, it made for a memory we shall soon not forget. We dragged ourselves away from the table, but knowing what our rooms looked like and how comfortable those beds were, well, we didn’t drag for long. Tomorrow it was heading back to Cardiff to catch the train to London, then an overnight at the airport, then a flight home. BUT, we still had a couple of things left to do first.


  • New Eden
  • Kids Garden
  • Plant a Row Grow a Row