In a dreamy, wooded valley with water all around, there’s a very special experience waiting to be discovered.
Paid for with the fruits of a remarkable fundraising effort, the Regency Restoration project is the largest piece of work undertaken by the National Botanic Garden of Wales since it opened in May 2000.
Located at Llanarthney, close to Cross Hands in Carmarthenshire, the garden is both a visitor attraction and a centre for botanical research and conservation, and features the world’s largest single-span glasshouse.
The Middleton family from Oswestry built a mansion here in the early 17th century. Then in 1789 Sir William Paxton bought the estate for £40,000 to create a water park.
Water flowed around the estate via a system of interconnecting lakes, ponds and streams linked by a network of dams, water sluices, bridges and cascades. Spring water was stored in elevated reservoirs that fed into a lead cistern on the mansion’s roof, allowing Paxton’s residence to enjoy piped running water and the very latest luxury, water closets.
The restoration of the water park has taken five years and more than £7 million. It’s seen the restoration of a 1.5km lake, a waterfall and a cascade; a new 350-metre-long dam built, six new bridges… but now it’s restored and ready for all to see.
Fancy a walk? There are miles of perfect paths that take in all of the amazing features.
Love wildlife? Come and luxuriate in nature’s bounty, where kingfishers, brimstone butterflies, otters and wild trout thrive.
Looking for the perfect family day out? Here’s a place for adventure. To explore. Look under rocks, turn back the clocks and play at being children once more where there is freedom and space and beauty into which you can be loosed on a wondrous journey of discovery and delight. For children of all ages.
This is just part of what’s on offer at the national garden, of course.
Birds of Prey
The Botanic Garden is also now home to the British Bird of Prey Centre – a unique collection of raptors and the only place in the UK you can see a golden eagle and a European sea eagle fly, with stunning flying displays every day. It provides awesome encounters with remarkable creatures and a guaranteed, never-to-be-forgotten, up-close-and-personal experiences with owls, hawks, falcons, eagles, kestrels and red kites.
The Botanic Garden’s centrepiece is the awesome glass dome that is Lord Foster’s Great Glasshouse, home to one of the finest collections of Mediterranean climate-zone plants in the world.
Cardiff-based writer and broadcaster Charles Williams said of this amazing building: “The world’s biggest single-span glasshouse looks like an alien mothership has crash-landed into the middle of some rural idyll (but in a good way).”
All around the Great Glasshouse you will find plenty of paths to take and around every corner is something to savour, enjoy and marvel at.
Why not take a tranquil lakeside walk?
A little further and you will find the ambitious Arboretum, where we are growing trees and shrubs from around the world with wild collected seed – planted for the future and growing fast.
Further still and you are on the wider estate where specially planned out and clearly-marked routes will transport you to new and amazing revelations – wild waxcap meadows where brightly coloured red, green and yellow fungi nestle like improbable gems in the tufty grass of the sheep-chewed pasture; and where the trees and hedgerows throng with whitethroats and flycatchers.
Not far from here, the centre’s carefully managed hay meadows reveal a treasury of orchids and other almost forgotten, stunning countryside wildflowers like ragged robin, yellow rattle, knapweed, greater burnet, eyebright and an abundance of orchids.
The park also features a unique and historic Double-Walled Garden, a steamy Tropical House, the busy Bee Garden, a Welsh heritage orchard and a newly-planted grove of more than 100 cherry trees.
For more information about the Botanic Garden visit www.botanicgardens.wales.
(All images: National Botanic Gardens of Wales)
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