Of before-and-after home and garden restorations, the beautiful Welsh Aberglasney heritage garden and estate mansion in the Tywi Valley in Llangathen, Carmarthenshire, belongs on the list of impressive projects.
The estate at Aberglasney is known to have been inhabited through medieval, Tudor, and Elizabethan periods. By the late 1500s, it housed a chapel. The unique Elizabethan cloister garden is considered the result of St. David’s Bishop Rudd’s efforts, and was likely constructed in the early 1600s.
The estate following that period saw generations upon generations of family use. The grounds and buildings endured multiple periods of war and natural changes in ownership and prosperity over time. During World War II, Aberglasney was requisitioned for use by the army and, later, towards D-Day, also housed American troops. The property changed hands several more times post-war. Mansion and grounds were split in the 1950s, property sold, and the mansion itself had become, by the mid-1990s, a vandalized and neglected shell of its former self.
Recognized by the community as an important historical property, Aberglasney in 1995 came into the care of the Aberglasney Restoration Trust supported by local and foreign investors. The BBC, in covering the restoration of the property, had coined the ancient gardens as the “garden lost in time”.
Following years of meticulous planning and restoration care, the mansion and gardens have become, today, cherished examples of fine Welsh architecture and treasured historic gardens. The restored exterior and interior of the mansion, the unique Elizabethan cloister garden and parapet, the beautiful garden promenade with the walled gardens, and other attractive features and plant collections in the 10-plus acres of ancient garden property at Aberglasney are well worth seeing. Within the mansion itself are information and exhibition spaces. The exotic Ninafarium greenhouse, which we did not see during our visit, has been built inside, set amidst the interior ruins within the mansion.
I personally felt a sense of being lost in time while travelling these grounds. The cloister garden sanctum and the ancient stone walls and cells of the cloister took me back in time. The view of the building and grounds from the parapet was striking. I enjoyed the tranquility within each of the walled gardens, and loved strolling beside the quiet pond, among the gorgeous perennial beds, and through the deep-shade gardens. The many gorgeous plants and stunning garden views are memorable.
Within each season, the heritage garden offers different views and perspectives. Visiting in late June, highlights for us included seeing climbing and heritage roses, graceful martagon lilies, lupins, perennial geraniums, allium, irises, and countless other gorgeous plant specimens.
At the end of our visit, after touring of the grounds with our hosts, cousins Dan and Christine, it was relaxing to sit in the Tea House beside the pond and enjoy a cup of hot tea and some cake.
To see photographs of the restoration in its early stages and to learn more about the Aberglasney “Heritage Garden of Excellence” – also known as the “Gardd Dreftadaeth Rhagorl” – visit Aberglasney.org .
If you enjoyed this article, you might also like reading about the Charming Cottage Garden in Wales.
Photographs and text: copyright Nadine Kampen / cookiebuxton; photograph also by Art Kampen
Photograph location: Aberglasney Heritage Garden, Llangathen, Carmarthenshire (images taken June 2016)
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