Letter to Monty Don

Dear Monty,

'O afflicted city, lashed by storms and not comforted.
I will build you with stones of turquoise '

I have just returned from visiting Plas Brodanw and Plas yn Rhiw. Both gardens gave me hope for my own small plot, more than that, the vistas and portals gave a view beyond time to a place of comfort. Not that we are supposed to be comforted these days.

Comfort came in the form of the welcome we received at Brodanw, and the apple and fudge cake. It was Charles Hawes veddw.com who recommended a visit, and as we were staying in Beddgelert, it was on our doorstep. I have read comments by others who have visited this garden and the accurate assessment by Stephen Anderton in the book 'Discovering Welsh Gardens' but there is no substitute for experiencing the place for yourself.

Clough Williams-Ellis it seems loved turquoise and vistas. The garden is architectural, which is what you would expect, but this man had a gift in carving out niches and constructing human proportioned spaces which have an air of fun and are truly life enhancing. He plays visual jokes, but they are not pompous or overbearing.

I agree that the surrounding trees are beginning to encroach, but they also frame the views like portals to another world. The same can be said for the tower in the landscape garden, with its small windows and arched doors framing the golden mountains.

Sadly the fabric of the garden, the walls and the sculptural elements are crumbling, and some of the wooden benches are rotting, I think this is a garden worth conserving and protecting.

I agree with many people who have said that plant labels in this garden are unnecessary, this is a garden about the sense of place, about the whole, the plant labels are an unwelcome distraction.

We then had an arduous drive on the second day along the Llyn Peninsula - arduous because Toff our whippet did not want to be in the car and whined all the way. I didn't help by getting the directions wrong for Plas yn Rhiw - the sign so small we overshot the turning, my head cold made map reading difficult with drips threatening to turn the page soggy, and sneezes coming as suddenly as the turnings.

Eventually we found the house and garden, and it was worth the whippety whines. Once he had been walked in the woods we walked up to the house perched on the hill. The lovely thing about this house and garden is that it is domestic in scale, and so I could relate to it. My favourite part of the whole experience was the small 'yellow bedroom' a bright room overlooking the bay below. Of the three sisters, Honora Keating was an artist, and judging by the fading watercolours on the stairs she was accomplished.

The garden is a bit harder to see than at Plas Brodanw, it is stuffed full of plants and gets a bit lost in all its hedging, not as much visible structure to see - the eye is distracted by the abundance of planting, but it has its own beauty.

Standing in the Keating house, seeing the belongings - ghosts of the past - slowly fading with the fabric, again made me think about what is of value, and I believe it is all about the now, about the beauty of each season. Being here back at the old band hall in this suddenly colourful autumn, I appreciate being alive now, it is good to be here while I am here.



  1. Paul, these would be beautiful places to visit.
    I especially like the 'borrowed' landscape at Brodanw, and the very delicate gates, lending a fey air.
    How nice to potter about without hordes of garden visitors!

    1. Yes, I suppose if it became too popular you would not have the time to really appreciate its beauty.... but it is also in need of the extra income to conserve and protect what is left of the structural elements. It is a truly beautiful place. Thank you for comment.


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