The Hidden Garden

by frankbeswick

I went to Anglesey to see my grandson and found a garden that I did not know existed, and I loved it.

Gerddi Cudd gardens at Plascadnant is in the North East of Anglesey, North Wales, between the pleasant towns of Menai Bridge and Beaumaris [pronounced Bewmoris] not far from the fast-flowing Menai Straits. I knew that there was a walled garden on the isle of Anglesey,yet I knew little about it. Then one day my daughter, who lives in Anglesey, whom we were visiting, suggested that we take a walk to the Hidden Garden. Now many of you know that I love gardening, but you might not know that I love walled gardens. In fact my dream is to happen upon a neglected walled garden and bring it to life. So I went to the Hidden Garden with great enthusiasm.

Image courtesy of rcro

Arriving at the Garden.

Gerddi  Cudd [pronounced Garthi Cuth]  is Welsh for the Hidden Garden. The name is apt, for it is well set back from the road that runs between Menai Bridge and Beaumaris. Without the signposts you would miss it. As it is, you walk up a steep drive [Helen pushed the trolley all the way, despite my offering help.] The entrance path on the drive runs between sides abundant in blue hydrangeas and a variety of trees as it leads to the  farm,grazed by sheep,  that is at the heart of the estate before you reach the walled garden. 

The tale of the garden is one of decay, renewal,tempest and refusal to be beaten by the overwhelming power of the elements, which can defeat human constructions, but cannot deny our power to overcome disaster, both as individuals and as a community. The walled garden, which  is unusual in that it is to some extent curved rather than rectangular, was established when the Price family created an estate fit for a gentleman out of their lands, emparking certain areas and making a walled garden, which in accordance with the traditions of the time became a home garden, growing fruit and vegetables for the house. When the Price line died out the land was sold on and for a while it was tended by the Fanning Evans family, but when her husband died and she was aging Mrs Fanning Evans tended a corner of the garden for as long as her body was capable, but then she went into easier accomodation and the garden fell into ruin.

In 1997 along  came Anthony Tavernor, a Staffordshire farmer, who bought the estate and began to restore it. He began by restoring some old cottages, which would be turned into holiday lets to provide him with an income, and soon he developed a herb garden behind the main house and he planted up an old courtyard. So far, so good.   However, recreating a full vegetable garden would have been too labour-intensive and uneconomic,  so he went for a fruit and flower garden, and soon it was back to something of its former glory.

Then the floods struck. Water pressure overwhelmed a two hundred year old wall, flooding the garden and destroying many plants. But that did not deter Anthony. He picked himself up and started again. I saw the restored garden and it is beautiful. 

Plas Cadnant

Plas Cadnant
Plas Cadnant
Gail Johnson

Walking Round the Garden

Having paid the entrance fee, which is a fair price for what you get, we entered the garden. Before us was a beautifully planted line of small fruit trees and beyond them the immaculately constructed pyramidal yew topiary that you see in the picture, all identical pyramids, a testimony to the gardeners' skills. At the end of the garden is a still pool of water kept perfectly clean, which is difficult for still pools, which accumulate debris. 

But we turned left, along the beautifully maintained paths,well suited for the baby trolley, as I was interested in what was there. The first sight was the pits, which are restored "pits" from the Victorian period. Originally they had been pineapple pits and were part of two larger houses which Anthony Tavernor deemed beyond repair and demolished. These were heated by a coal fired boiler and the air ducted into  them to provide the sustained warmth that pineapples require. Some of the vents are still visible to the discerning inquirer. Adjoining them, but closed to the public, is an unusual greenhouse. It has fully brick walls and a glass roof. This is the one of the three buildings that Anthony was able to restore.It still has its original chimney. 

But the left wall is a garden unusual for a walled garden, as walled gardens generally grew crops directly in the ground, but here inside the wall is a smaller wall about four feet high encasing a magnificent flower bed, which is a double herbaceous border.  A few words cannot do justice to the controlled floral profusion, as  hydrangeas and roses proclaim themselves. But what stuck in my mind was the lovely blue of the eryngiums, sea holly, which adorn this bed in places.  But blues, yellows and purples unite in a chorus of colour as the summer reaches its zenith and the June air is warm and pleasant 

Other flowers,such as white hydrangeas were on display, along with the deep reds of dianthus and euonymous. There are poppies, scabious and plentiful cornus, the dogwood. To see this border in summer is to be overwhelmed by beautiful flowers. 

The Woodland Garden

A gate leads you into the woods, whose paths are as well-maintained as the gardens are, free of weeds and safe. There are three walks in the woods, graded according to difficulty, the red route being the hardest. We took the blue route, as Helen's trolley could not handle the most arduous paths, but they are few in number and are confined to the steep drop to the river. She and Maureen told me that they would sit while I descended to the river bank, but Maureen came down a bit later. The grandson was content to chew his teething ring.

The river cascades over a small waterfall and rushes onwards into the woods beyond the paths as it surges down to its destination in the  Menai Straits. In the distance you espy the mountains of North Wales across the Straits. By the river you find the flora typical of a shady woodland sprayed with water. Giant gunnera grow in profusion, and mosses and lichens cover the spray-soaked rocks. On the far side of the river there is a cliff that ascends into more woodland, but there the path stops. What is this like in spate, I wonder? You could understand the power of the flood water as it swept through the gardens above and down into the ravine. I am surprised that the wood did not suffer substantial damage from it, but the wood is ancient, it was here long before humans and has seen many a flood in its long life. It can cope. 

Nearby is a pool set in rocks that is filled with clear water from the river. A variety of foxgloves grow in the soil filled pockets in the rock.The standard purple form is augmented by pink and white varieties. Woodland plants of partial shade they are in their element.At other places in the wood there are azaleas, astilbe and eucryphia; and no woodland is complete without anemones, whose white stands out against the shade. 

The Victorian design of the woodland still remains, for there are paths that are stairs at places.One, the thirty nine steps, a series of broad steps, leads down towards the ravine, though not all the way, but it does make the journey as easy as possible. A stream flows downwards along a series of small steps.  I must make clear though that the nature of the terrain makes the woodland unsuitable for mobility scooters and wheelchairs, despite the owner's good will in this matter. 

We returned to the walled garden via a tunnel through the wall that brought us to the west side and we walked up to the cafe. 

Ending the Walk

I have said before that my daughter is implacable in her convictions that walks should be through nice places and end up in a cake or ice cream shop. Somewhere in  a family album is a picture of a teenage Helen behind a bowl of ice cream, reward for completing a walk in the Berwyns. Yesterday's walk was no exception. We visited the garden tea shop where she and Maureen had tea and flapjacks. I had a cream and blackcurrant jam scone along with my favourite, Earl Grey tea. I would recommend the cafe, it is so well run.While it serves only snack food, the quality was lovely. 

Anthony Tavernor has been since his youth a lover of farming, horticulture and architecture, and at the Hidden Garden he has been able to indulge his three loves in one  project. A dream come true, and we are all beneficiaries. 

I have hardly given you more than a taste of The Hidden Garden, for there is much more to it than my brief tour,which was a family day out with a young baby. But one thing is sure. I told my wife and daughter that this was not my last visit.

I will be back. 

Sea Holly [Eryngium]

Eryngium
Eryngium
Public Domain Pictures/

Astilbe

Astilbe
Astilbe
AKuptsova

Anemone

Wood Anemone
Wood Anemone
Logga Wiggler
Updated: 07/07/2017, frankbeswick
 
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frankbeswick on 07/11/2017

It is a lovely place.The woods are beautifully tended; and the double herbaceous border would repay spending more time than I had to give that day. I could spend a whole day with guidebook and camera on the walled garden alone; and then I would turn to the woods.

kimbesa on 07/11/2017

I love gardens and this one sounds especially lovely!

Margielynn on 07/10/2017

Loved the article and all the beautiful flowers!

frankbeswick on 07/08/2017

I have to say that this is not a National Trust garden, nor does it belong to the Royal Horticultural Society, so my membership cards for these two organizations do not get me entry. The garden is part of a private business that is also a labour of love, from which the owner makes a living. I do not begrudge the entry fee.

frankbeswick on 07/08/2017

I did not see year passes advertised when I paid my fee, but the owner is obviously an able businessman and might be open to suggestions. You are right, though, about not being able to take it in in one go.For example, I did not see the Azaleas at their full bloom on my one visit. Nor did I see the upper valley garden above the waterfall, as we had no time that day. I am told that the woods are a site of special scientific interest because they contain some alpine flora, but I could not find any information on this matter. In fact there are a few places in North Wales where alpines grow naturally, remnants of the Ice Age.

I imagine that if you went alone with a guide book you could spend a long time wandering along the double herbaceous border, and that is before you get into the woods. You would need to identify flowers, trees and lichens. Oh, and the woods are a sanctuary for our native red squirrels, which were pushed out of many places by American grey squirrels.But they are shy creatures and I spotted none on this visit, though I have seen them in some places.

dustytoes on 07/08/2017

This sounds like an absolutely beautiful garden to visit. Do they sell year passes by chance, so you could pay one price, as a local, and got back as much as you want? I would think that no one could see it all in one day.

frankbeswick on 07/08/2017

Thanks for the information on the variation between American and British English. I suspected that there may be some difference in usage where the trolley/stroller was concerned, but I did not know the American usage. More modern Brits sometimes say pushchair, but I'm not modern, which grandfather is?

The wall is somewhat curved rather than round, but you make a good point about the power of the flood being limited by the curve. Perhaps it was deflected to some degree and that helped, though the wall did come down under the weight of water. Then it would have cascaded downhill through the woods.The wall that went down was two hundred years old, so maybe it was weakened with age.I am unsure of the legal status of the garden, but if it is a listed building for the purposes of conservation the wall would have had to have been restored exactly as it was before the damage.

I also forgot to say that the wooded section is legally designated as a site of special scientific interest for its flora.

blackspanielgallery on 07/07/2017

Frank, it took some time before I realized a trolley i England is what we call a stroller.
As for the woods surviving the flood, There is a lighthouse in Mississippi that came through Hurricane Katrina while many other structures were destroyed. I believe the round design is what saved the trees, as the water cannot exert the same force as it would on a flat surface. The curve acts like an arch, redirecting the force.
I suspect you went at a time when the flowers were at or near peaking. I have gone to a garden, Bellingrath in Mobile, Alabama, and found the floral displays vary in intensity.

frankbeswick on 07/07/2017

Yellow: the easiest, suitable for prams and wheelchairs.Mainly the walled garden.
Blue:extends into the woods but with no steps,
Red: Steeper and there are steps. The red route diverges from the blue route as you approach the river.

The whole estate is two hundred acres,including gardens, woods and fields.

DerdriuMarriner on 07/07/2017

FrankBeswick, Thank you for giving us the experience of a restored hidden garden. Blue flowers count among my favorites even though the astilbe above is particularly photogenic. What is the color of the third walk?

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