The North Wales weekend had been in the making for some years with various EBTS members encouraging Anthony Tavernor to open his garden and ideally act as host for the event and luckily for all of us he agreed. The 40 strong group assembled for lunch at the Grosvenor Garden Centre before being introduced by our host to Les Armstrong the former Head Gardener from Eaton Hall. We then drove in convoy through the extensive grounds of the estate to Eaton Hall.
At the hall we were met by the current Head Gardener Jan Lomas and were expertly guided round the gardens in two groups. The estate is 11,500 acres in the North West’s Cheshire countryside with the gardens tended by 19 full time staff including 3 who look after the lawns and one full time florist. The current hall is the principal home of the 6th Duke of Westminster, Gerald Cavendish Grosvenor and his family and was built in 1991 the latest in a succession of houses built on the estate going back to 1440’s.
After looking round the grounds the group departed for the drive to the Plas Cadnant Estate where we were to be based for the weekend. On arrival we were greeted by our host and shown either to one of the rooms that are rented out in the holiday cottages or a local hotel Carreg Barn. In the evening a delightful formal dinner was then provided in the Plas Cadnet visitor centre tea room.
Plas Cadnant Estate
Anthony gave an illustrated introductory talk about the the history of Plas Cadnant and how he has been bringing it back to life over the last 16 years from an overgrown jungle of trees and rhododendron bushes, reclaiming the walled garden, valley and buildings from near total collapse. The work continues adding new features and reclaiming new areas, creating natural beauty without it looking man made, wonderful walks and a great visitor centre for tea.
Through out the weekend it wasn’t just topiary, box and yew that we were treated to, there were a never ending supply of different coloured hydrangea.
Crug Farm Plants
After welsh cakes and tea it was on for a quick look round Crug Farm Plants, the home of RHS Chelsea gold medal winners. Crug has become a Mecca for extraordinary plants. Initially originating from their breeding programme, the emphasis has shifted to introducing new and wonderful plants from their annual sorties to remote corners of the globe. They also have a view from their front door that has to be seen to be believed.
After a drive to the Kyffin Gallery at Oriel Plas Gynn y Weddw for lunch it was on to Nanhoron Hall the regency mansion house that has been the home of the Harden family for 700 year. On arrival we were greeted by Bettina Harden and shown round the gardens by the new head gardener Tim and assistant Matilda.
After the tour of the garden we were welcomed into The Harden family home to have afternoon tea and a delightful selection of cakes made by Bettina specially for the occasion. After that it was back to Plas Cadnant for an dinner and entertainment from members of the group coordinated by Chairman Mark.
Sunday morning we were all under strict orders not to be late and is soon became apparent why..
Plas Brondanw Gardens
Time for more tea & welsh cakes and a welcome from Gwynedd Roberts, the head gardener of Plas Brondanw Gardens. Built by Clough Williams-Ellis’s ancestors around 1550, Clough was given the house by his father in 1908, at the age of 25. In 1971 he said “it is warming indeed to see the avenues (of yew) that I then planted growing so flourishingly and the whole place maturing in ever increasing beauty”.
Gwynedd Roberts is about to take on Portmeirion as head gardener and this was our next stop which included lunch at the Portmeirion Hotel.
We then all enjoyed an evening of sweet canapés and song as guests of our host Anthony.
Monday morning and our final gardens of the North Wales weekend. Bodysgallen Hall house and gardens are run as a commercial hotel but in 2008 the company along with it’s other two hotels was donated to The National Trust. The hotel sits in 200 acres of parkland and gardens which include a 17th century parterre, walled garden and a mile of box hedging. Robert Owen the head gardener & his assistant Gary gave us a guided tour of the grounds that are maintained by a team of 4 to 5 full time throughout the year.
Next it was on to the home of Lord Langford. The Conwy family have lived here for over 500 years and in 1875 the house was reworked by famous architect William Eden Nesfield and features a formal parterre and woodland. After a lunch of home made sandwiches and tea we enjoyed the beautiful gardens in the sunshine before heading home having had a wonderful weekend.
Thanks to Anthony Tavernor and his team for all their hard work in arranging and running the event and to all those who let us look around their private gardens which made our trip to North Wales so special.