One of the things you can’t miss if you drive around here is that the Welsh Botanical Gardens are nearby. The road signs are very prominent. Last weekend I got to pay them a visit, and was well impressed.
Those of you who know me will be aware that I am not a gardener. Plants tend to keel over and die if they so much as see me coming. But the Welsh Botanical Gardens are much more than that. They are located in the grounds of the former Middleton Hall (now demolished), a stately home built with proceeds from the East India Company. The Middleton brothers, who originally built the mansion, all died on voyages to and from India, and the estate was purchased by one William Paxton, who had made a ridiculous fortune from being Master of the Mint in Bengal. Thankfully the estate is now owned by the nation, and is doing its best to admit to its colonial legacy.
The point about building a Botanical Gardens on the site of a country estate is that you have ridiculous amounts of space. So yes, there are ornamental gardens. There are also tree collections. In the back of the picture you can seen the dome of the giant greenhouse that has plants from as far away as Australia and Chile. And there is still ridiculous amounts of space. There are lots of walks, many of them around the landscaped lakes and rivers that were built for the estate. Some of these are wooded, and are now inhabited by faeries and, recently arrived, a Gruffalo. Others are out in the open and have magnificent views over the Tywi Valley. There’s a bird of prey centre too. And a rock garden containing rocks from the many different geologies of Wales. A bunch of Presceli blue stones have been carved with Celtic symbols and set in a ring, as is right and proper.
I can see myself spending a lot of time at this place. That will be primarily for the walks and views, but also communing with raptors.
At the beginning of April they will have a food and craft festival. I am hoping for interesting cheeses.