Penllergare Valley Woods
Swansea’s secret valley garden with its ‘edge of wilderness’ feel is about to re-awaken to a new life.
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Enjoy the great outdoors along woodland trails. You can walk for miles here, moments from the M4, through a woodland rich in wildlife and tranquillity.
It may seem an ordinary park in a pleasant suburb of Swansea but it happens to have been the inspiration for Wales’ greatest modern poet, Dylan Thomas.
Soak in the abundance of water in our South and West Wales gardens. It may sit in limpid pools, rush over waterfalls, or ripple along streams, but it always stamps its individual look on each garden.
It’s all happening here. As well as bracing walks along a 250 acre ‘edge of wilderness’ valley with the lively River Llan as its spine, there’s the fascinating revival of paths that had become overgrown and a long abandoned 150-year-old terrace garden in the ‘Picturesque’ style. Add the observatory where one of the earliest photographs of the moon was taken, a waterfall with three cascades that salmon and trout try to leap up in autumn, a vast lake being dredged and revitalised, and there are reasons enough to return time and time again to this valley. With massed bluebells in spring and gorgeous autumn colour from the very exotic trees, there’s something in every season and it’s a haven for wildlife.
A bonus to visitors is the new coffee shop run by friendly local volunteers. What’s more, with instant access from the M4 it’s so easy to be part of one of South Wales’ most exciting restoration projects.
A Sleeping Beauty Awakes
Put this on your not-to-miss list. It’s a real fairytale. A South Wales valley garden that has lain hidden for 150 years is being painstakingly uncovered. The early Victorian garden at Penllergare on Swansea’s northern outskirts was created to show off the wealth of owner John Dillwyn Llewelyn. No expense was spared. In 1832 he started working on a new 1.5 mile carriage drive from Cadle Mill, followed in 1836 by extensive alterations to the house in the Classical style, adding a conservatory. Next he started on the landscape, carving out a terrace going down to the valley of the River Llan in the fashionable Romantic ‘Picturesque’ style. He dammed the river and created a series of lakes with boathouses and, using huge rocks, created a spectacular waterfall with three dramatic cascades.
Changing times left this picturesque landscape garden overgrown and derelict and the house demolished, but now with the help of One Historic Garden funding, the romantic qualities are being revived and opened up for public access: the lake is being revitalised and the exquisite workmanship of the stone terraces revealed. One visit may not be enough, for every week the picture is changing as the garden emerges from its slumber.
Natural History Adventure
Like many Victorian gentry, John Dillwyn Llewelyn was enthused by natural history and science, and he became a pioneering photographer. A wealth of contemporary imagery evokes the romantic vision of Penllergare Valley Woods, providing rich reference for the garden’s revival today as a spellbinding place of changing moods where nature is experienced with all the senses. Deep in the woods the sounds of birds – ravens, jays and goldfinches – draw you closer into their secret world, while bursts of spring bluebells, wild daffodils and rhododendron lift the heart. The sudden leap of a salmon makes you catch your breath. Wild, informal, even gothic, Nature unfolds as a succession of vistas, taking you back to Penllergare’s historic heyday and forwards to its flourishing future.
Coffee shop: daily
20p/hour, £2.00 up to 4 hours
Penllergare Valley Woods