Autumn so far has brought about many exciting events and challenges. The photo below – taken in early October 2013 – shows the extent of the work currently being carried out in the north of the valley. It also shows a snippet of the vast area of woodland that we now manage for local people and wildlife – primarily through voluntary management and support. To see elements of the restoration project finally reaching completion this month has been most rewarding for us all.
CAR PARK & VISITOR CENTRE
The pattern of daily life in the woods has changed with the opening of the visitor centre – it’s great to see so many people enjoying the terrace (in almost all weathers), the excellent coffee and delicious homemade cake and not least, the absolutely brilliant welcome and service from our volunteer visitor centre assistants! There have even been treats for our canine friends!
The feedback from visitors is universally positive with ideas for how things could be even better, flooding in!
- “Such a lovely warm welcome every time I visit. So happy that this little coffee shop has opened”
- “I am looking forward to the completion of the silt removal next year – love the work already done, cafe fabulous and volunteers brilliant – well done so impressed – we now visit weekly”
- “Had a great morning, progress is fab, exciting times! Boys had a great time in nature’s playground, we saw dippers, owl pellets and lost wellies in the mud followed by great coffee served by even greater ladies!”
- “Lovely coffee and cake after a little walk through Penllergare. The admiral work of volunteers paid off”
- “The new visitor centre and cafe in Penllergare woods is lovely. Can recommend the latte. Run by volunteers too. Woods looking as beautiful as ever, when they’re restored fully, they’ll be outstanding.”
- “I went there this afternoon! It looks fantastic. The coffee shop is in a great spot and staff were so friendly. Really looking forward to the developments.”
UPPER LAKE & ARCHIMEDES SCREW
The lake contractors have now ceased all further desilting work for the year as a result of the salmon and trout migration season and are now tidying up the tracks and paths so that they can be re-opened to visitors in early November. We had hoped that the upper lake would have been fully desilted this year but it was always going to be a tall order. They will now return after April 2014 to complete the upper lake desilting. Did you know that throughout Wales there is an embargo on working in rivers from 15th October through the winter to the 15th April to protect fish stocks?
As lake works slow down, the contractors are pressing ahead rapidly with the hydro turbine housing. The Archimedes Screw is scheduled to be lifted in during the next fortnight. Exact date still to be confirmed! How exciting is that?!?!
“I doubt if I’ll ever be involved with the construction of another new stone bridge built in traditional style like this” – so said Will Griffiths, the young site manager for the contractor building the new Llewelyn bridge recently. He was proud to be involved with the project. His sentiment was echoed by his uncle, Peter Griffiths of W B Griffiths and Son from Haverfordwest.
The stonemason, Selwyn Jones from Ammanford is also proud to have built a new stone bridge, remarking that he doesn’t have many clients doing this sort of thing these days – it’s a really rare occurrence and made all the more special by the fact that Selwyn employed two apprentices on the job – both young local guys who have been excellent ambassadors for young people, turning up for work in all weather conditions to develop and hone their chosen craft. Matthew Mariana and Rhys Jenvy (now employed full time by Selwyn) have been supported by another HLF grant – the Heritage Bursary Scheme run from the Tywi Centre in Llandeilo – both will go on to apply their skills learned in Valley Woods on other jobs.
The Penllergare Trust would like to thank all the tradesmen and craftsmen who have contributed to this fantastic project that will be enjoyed by thousands of people in the years to come. As people stand on the bridge and snap those photos of the waterfall, we wonder if they’ll think of the people who crafted the bridge in 2013?
The bridge will be ready for all to see and visit by mid November.
Calling all gardening enthusiasts. Over the last eighteen months under the enthusiastic leadership of Ray Butt, one of our Trustees, we have been researching the rhododendron collection at Penllergare, and have managed to identify and source the origins of many of the original species and hybrids grown by John Dillwyn Llewelyn and his father before him. With the assistance and advice of the Head Gardener of Clyne Gardens and our own wonderful woodland volunteers, we are now proposing to reintroduce many of these rhododendrons, along with azaleas, hellebores, ferns, wild daffodils, snowdrops and other woodland plants to recreate the character of the gardens as they appear in JDL’s photographs and watercolours.
As you can imagine this is a very exciting part of the project and we would be delighted if you could come and join us and become involved in woodland gardening. If you are interested please contact Ed Tucker (email@example.com) or Ray Butt (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we will let you have information on how to get started. Remember you don’t have to be an expert to become involved, just enthusiastic, you can leave the rest to us, including the tea and biscuits!
If you can’t spare the time, but would still like to be involved, you might like to consider making a donation towards the cost of bulbs or plants. You can do this via our brand new online store: http://penllergare.tictail.com/
This week our woodland volunteers have already planted a thousand wild daffodils in drifts and a thousand snowdrops in the upper terraces and car park area.
Hot off the press! A large limb of the Japanese Red Cedar (Cryptomeria Japonica) on the terraces, at the base of the upper flight of steps has developed a crack in the recent high winds. After careful inspection, it was decided to take the limb off before it falls onto the path below and the new terrace wall. This species, grown widely in Japan and China, was planted extensively in Britain in parks and gardens in the 19th century as a decorative tree. Tree surgery – What a job!
HISTORIC PHOTO OF THE MONTH
It has been a good year for fungi! Having seen all of the wonderful photos of fungi that have been sent in by our volunteers and visitors, Richard Morris (Trustee) has kindly sent us some drawings and paintings of fungi that would have been found in Penllergare (including the Orchid House) in the 19th century. The images below come from an original sketch book owned by Emma Charlotte Dillwyn Llewelyn – John Dillwyn Llewelyn’s daughter.
What’s more, John Dillwyn Llewelyn, the creator of the Penllergare landscape, has recently been selected as one of the Valleys Heroes. Find out more about the Valleys Heroes project and his influence in photography, astronomy, science and horticulture here.
We have now passed the halfway stage with the Parks for People HLF project and have committed (but not all spent yet!) over £2.2m of expenditure (out of a budget of £2.8m) to a wide range of projects and activities. We’ve still got the Observatory to go and the upper terrace walls, more paths and steps. It’s worth just reminding ourselves where the money has come from and thanking once again those organisations and individuals who have helped to make this project come to life so far. We’d like to record our very grateful thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund, of course, but also to those who have helped to provide the partnership funds to enable us to proceed, including:
- the Veolia Environmental Trust (the lake works and access);
- Natural Resources Wales (lake works, Llewelyn bridge and terrace walls and paths);
- the Welsh Government with EU money under the One Historic Garden scheme (car park and visitor centre);
- the City and County of Swansea (car park, visitor centre and the Observatory);
- the Garfield Weston Foundation (general);
- the Charles Hayward Foundation (general);
- the Monument Trust (the project);
- the Swansea Welsh Church Act Fund (Observatory equipment);
- the Gower Society (the Observatory)
Pulling together this funding doesn’t come about by accident – our thanks go to long-term volunteer, Michael Norman, for putting in hours and hours of hard work on the computer asking for help over many months. Additionally, we’d like to acknowledge the generosity of Edward Harris, Solicitors who have provided legal services at no cost to the Trust to secure the lease of the Observatory and other legal issues.
As mentioned before, the Trust is looking to the future as well. There’s a long and growing list of good ideas and projects, ranging from the restoration of the walled gardens, through to the provision of better and permanent volunteer facilities and equipment, to repairs to the retaining wall of the carriage drive and associated old stone bridges. All will need concerted effort and money, and on top of this we also need to generate sufficient funds to maintain what we already have – over 260 acres in all. We are overwhelmed with the support and positive feedback we are getting from visitors and local people – this is great and really spurs us on. We’re always on the look out for enthusiastic people who are willing to volunteer in a range of roles and/or work with us to raise money for Valley Woods – small or large, every penny counts.
IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO FIND OUT MORE…
Do feel free to pop in to chat with our volunteers, to have a cup of tea and/or to pick up a leaflet at any time.
We look forward to welcoming you!