Pontrhydfendigaid Open Garden, Snorkeling and a Carnival Queen

I’d like to say that yesterday was day 22 of summer, but although temperatures were still up into the low 20’s and when the sun came out it was lovely, there were quite a few heavy showers around and things were feeling a lot less summery than they were. Typically this is often the case once the schools break up!

I started Sunday with my usual routine of an early morning run from Machynlleth, a swim in the pool and a bacon sandwich and coffee in the leisure centre cafe. The run was OK, new shoes (as I’ve been good by replacing my running shoes once I got to 250 miles of usage in the old ones) and a new Personal Record (PR) and Strava Course Record (CR) on the little climb at Penrhosmawr.

The swim was OK too and the bacon sandwich and coffee was of course the best bit!

Back at home and there was just enough time for a quick cup of tea and a scone with jam and cream before we got ready to head out to the Pontrhydfendigaid Open Gardens Event. We had a few errands to run on the way so ended up taking a convoluted route getting there so we arrived just after 2pm. I had my bike in the back of the car as well as the plan was for me to ride home afterwards.

It had been lovely weather all the way there, perfect for wandering around people gardens and I was looking forward to the hilly ride home but as we approached Pontrhydfendigaid there was a huge black cloud in the sky. It soon started raining and as we pulled into the car park it was pouring down. We sat in the car for a bit until it abated and then went in to pay for our passes to view the gardens. The heavens opened again though and we ended up sheltering in the doorway of the hall for a while. Eventually it eased off just enough to head out to the first garden.

We went to ‘Llys Einion’ first, billed as a:

“quirky, modern garden with ornaments, fish pond and perennial borders”

and that’s just what we found. It was a little odd just wandering into someone elses back garden, but the owners were friendly enough and soon showed us around. It was only a small garden but was really well kept and packed in quite a lot for its size. There were a couple of ponds, lots of containers and a few little borders, along with a small greenhouse and a little seating area. I wouldn’t have called it ‘quirky’ though and everything was in the right place, very tidy and very ordered. There were loads of fish in the pond, although the rain was keeping them away from the surface and we saw a little frog in the smaller pond.

Next stop was ‘Rock Cottage‘. This garden is owned by one of the people in the Beekeepers Association that we are members of. It was quite a contrast to Llys Einion. It was described as

“A young cottage garden on the rock! With an emphasis on bee-friendly planting, vegetable growing, space for dogs and hens, areas for wildlife and places to sit and relax”

It was a little less tidy and well-kept and had a much more free-flowing feel to it. Again it wasn’t huge, but had a lot packed into it with some pretty impressive raised vegetable beds packed full of produce. There weren’t any bees in the hive yet, but once there are the garden may be transformed / taken over by them as it is currently situated right in the middle of the garden. The bees will love it of course but I think it might make tending to the garden a little difficult.

Rock Cottage

Rock Cottage

On our way to the next garden we bumped into a friend, Tracy so had a quick chat and then she decided to join us as we visited the rest of the gardens. We hadn’t seen her for a while so it was good to spend some time wandering around the gardens with her.

The next garden we went to was Cae Bach,

“A fairly new, family garden with a few herbaceous borders and a small vegetable patch with views to farmland and hills.”

This was the newest of the gardens and was still under development so there wasn’t a huge amount in it. It was also dominated by a huge trampoline – just one of the joys of combining gardening with a family! It has plenty of potential though and if the event continues over the years it’ll be nice to re-visit these gardens and see how they develop. We also bumped into Rob and Lynfa from the Beekeeping Association whilst we were in this garden so had a quick chat before they headed off as the rain returned.

We braved the shower and it didn’t come to much as we headed off to yet more gardens.

The Oak Street garden was a

“Vibrant new garden mixing the edible with the ornamental in a small plot.”

It was quite small but once again very neat and tidy. We nosed inside the shed and even that was immaculate with tools all lined up in little rows! The garden had some interesting plants in it although it did look as though a fair amount of time and money had been spent on it recently. There’s nothing wrong with that of course, I think if I were opening my garden to the public I’d spend a few weeks before hand making sure everything was tidy and trim and I’d no doubt end up spending some money on new plants to fill any gaps or replace those that were looking a little tired.

Just across the road was Dolau Bach,

“An established cottage garden with wild flowers and perennials. There is also a small paddock backing onto the River Teifi with raised vegetable beds and a summerhouse”

This was quite a contrast to the previous garden. We wandered around the paddock and into the summerhouse first before entering the enclosed garden itself where we were greeted with a lovely plot about the same size as ours on a slight upwards slope away from the house. There were some interesting specimen trees at the backs of the borders and some nice swathes of perennials, a little summer house at the top and a pond with a large frog in it. There was plenty to see with borders packed full of perennials but I’d imagine that it was a fairly difficult garden to maintain as there would always be something that needed doing – A little like ours really! I just don’t seem to be able to find the time to keep on top of it these days.

Dolau Bach

Dolau Bach

Next on our itinerary was Dolgoed,

“A large, traditional garden with ornamental pond, greenhouse, poly-tunnel, patio seating area and many mature trees.”

This was another lovely garden and quite different to the others we had seen so far. Much larger for a start and full of large mature trees, conifers, birch, oak and beech to name but a few. The greenhouse and poly-tunnel were neat and tidy and there were huge beds of potatoes too. It had a nice woodland-walk feel to it on one side with a more formal seating area in front of the house. We bumped into Ann from the Beekeeping Association here as well and Morgan managed to convince her to try a ‘Mega-Sour’ sweet. It didn’t last long though as it was just too much for her! I decided to try another as well just for the hell of it. Last time I did it made my tongue bleed but I thought that maybe that had just been a one-off so had another one. It was indeed very sour, and once again by the time I’d finished it my tongue was bleeding – So that’s it, experiment concluded, Mega-Sours make my tongue bleed and I won’t be having any more!

We wandered back into the centre of the village, passing Tracy’s house as we did so she left us there (after inviting us in for tea). We declined as we had to get back to Borth but did just manage to fit in a quick look around the final garden, Llys Awel:

“A Traditional British Garden with large vegetable patch, a paddock and a pond.”

We’re glad we didn’t miss this one as I think it was the best of the bunch. We did miss the vegetable patch which was on the other side of the drive as we entered, but the garden itself was immaculate. Perfect borders set amongst a vibrant, green, neatly trimmed lawn with perfect edges all backed by tidy hedges. The borders were as neat as could be with even the soil in perfectly sculpted symmetry as it rose from one side of the border to the other. The plants were quite well spaced in the borders adding to the sense of order, although I’d personally like to see more plants and a little less soil, but that’s just being picky.

There was a nice pergola walkway smothered in Clematis and a wide range of perennials in the borders. You could then follow a little path around to the paddock. The flower garden near the house was lovely, but what really made people envious was the paddock and pond as it just added to the garden. The paddock area was huge and the pond complete with island and a wide range of ducks was more of a lake! Backed by mature trees with loads of bird-boxes on it was quite a contrast to the neat, tidy flower garden but it meant the garden had everything. If we owned a garden like this there would be plenty for all of us. Large areas of open space  and tree-climbing for Morgan (he could even go canoeing in the ‘pond’), plenty of wildlife opportunities with log piles, wild-flowers and bird boxes around the edges of the paddock, a perfect flower garden near to the house for that wow factor and dining / entertaining opportunities and a large vegetable patch (that we missed) for growing produce for the kitchen. There would be plenty of space for bees somewhere too. We were quite envious!

Llys Awel

Llys Awel

Just as we got back towards the car, the heavens opened again and the rain lashed down. I was supposed to be getting changed and heading home on my bike but this sudden change in the weather convinced me otherwise. It certainly didn’t look nice out there so I decided against it and drove back to Borth with the bike in the back of the car.

Anna was due to play in the band at the lifeboat station at 6pm for the crowning of the Lifeboat Carnival Queen so we got ready and headed off to the lifeboat station. Morgan and I took our snorkeling kit so as Anna headed off to get ready to play her cornet we climbed into our wetsuits and headed onto the beach. We waded out as far as we could as dark storm clouds gathered on the horizon and then swam across to the new reef. I towed Morgan most of the way but once we got there we floated around above the seaweed covered rocks looking for signs of life. It wasn’t as clear as it had been and with the skies now pretty grey it was fairly bleak out there, but Morgan enjoyed just looking at the seaweeds and we did spot a couple of jellyfish.

We could hear the band playing in the distance and out to sea were dark sheets of rain marching up through Cardigan Bay. It was all quite moody really and out of the shelter of the reef it was fairly rough too. Morgan didn’t seem to mind though and had a good time snorkeling. After a while I towed him back across the deeper water to the beach and we headed back to the car to get changed. We managed to get into the car just as a downpour swept across us but got back out once it had passed and went to watch the end of the Carnival Queen Crowning. We then headed upstairs in the Lifeboat Station where I ate far too much at the buffet thanks to the delicious cakes on offer and we chatted to lots of friends and locals.

Another busy day in West Wales but we managed to pack it all in. The Open Gardens Event is a good idea and I can only see it growing (excuse the pun!). I’d imagine that there would be quite a few people with gardens who decided not to open them to the public this time who have been inspired by the fact that others opened their gardens. Now that they have seen other peoples gardens and have realised that they don’t need to be immaculately kept works of art or huge formal affairs with loads of interest and rare plants then they may well be willing to open theirs next time. It could become quite an event for the village and no doubt will inspire other people to spend a little more time and effort on their gardens too.

From a visitors perspective it was good to see such a wide variety of gardens all within the same area. As I said earlier it would be nice to go back and view some of these gardens again and see how they progress over the years. It was all in aid of Wales Air Ambulance as well so is for a good cause. They could probably make a little more of it in the hall with a large plant sale and more in the way of food and drinks but I’m sure that side of things will develop over the years as well.

It would be nice to do it here in Ynyslas, but I’m not sure if there are enough gardens and enough variety to make it of interest to people

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Alan Cole

Alan is a Freelance Website Designer, Sports & Exercise Science Lab Technician and full time Dad & husband with far too many hobbies: Triathlete, Swimming, Cycling, Running, MTBing, Surfing, Windsurfing, SUPing, Gardening, Photography.... The list goes on.

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