by the Curious Scribbler
Hafod has come along way from its derelict state in 1994. The walks and bridges are all now restored and it is prized by many people for its its quiet tranquillity, its vistas and waterfalls and the three walled gardens at its core.
This coming weekend that tranquillity will be, for some hours, interrupted by an event much anticipated in the community. A large marquee has blossomed in Mrs Johnes’ Flower Garden, and on Saturday evening it will host Music in the Marquee, a ticketed event at which food and drink will be available along with entertainment by two local bands, the Hornettes and The Hicksters.
On Sunday the Foxglove Fair runs from 10.30 to 6pm. There will be 40 outdoor stands selling crafts, plants, food and drink, while more stands devoted to sales and local organizations will be in the marquee. Throughout the day a programme of music in the marquee will be provided by local schools and choirs and the Aberystwyth Silver Band.
It is right and proper in my view that a garden should be not merely beautiful but useful, a place of sociability and fun. Mrs Johnes’ garden, which occupies a low lying area by a bend in the Ystwyth river, has proved its merits before, notably at a lavish wedding reception held there by Nick and Claire Lee in 2018.
For this weekend’s events the initiative came from the tourism body Pentir Pumlumon and the Cefn Croes Windfarm Trust and has been choreographed by Tourism Development Officer Tanya Friswell and Hafod Estate Manager Dave Newnham.
I hope visitors will take time to stroll round the garden, planted, as an echo of its former splendour, with plants which were available to gardeners in the garden’s heyday in the late 18th century. Some contemporary visitors described Mrs Johnes’ Garden as an American Garden. At this time fashionable recent introductions were chiefly from the eastern side of the USA. The rich variety of Japanese and Chinese flowers and shrubs familiar in gardens today had yet to be discovered.
Just ten years ago this garden was barely discernable, swamped by a mature plantation of sitka spruce. Huge earthmovers and diggers extracted the stumps, lifting and shaking them of earth as the weeder shakes a groundsel.
The forest road was re-routed round the margin of the old garden, and the dry stone walls repaired and topped with moss.
In Mrs Johnes’ day the lawn would have been ornamented with many island beds brilliant with flowers. It is well described by B.H. Malkin (The Scenery, Antiquities and Bibliography of South Wales published 1804) “A gaudy flower garden, with its wreathing and fragrant plats bordered by shaven turf, with a smooth gravel walk carried around, is dropped, like an ornamental gem among wild and towering rocks, in the very heart of boundless woods. The spot contains about two acres, swelling gently to meet the sunbeams, and teeming with every variety of shrub and flower”.
The modern restoration has the original circular gravel path but the ornamental borders are confined to the perimeter of the garden. Those fragrant, gaudy plats would require a great deal of gardeners’ time, especially when the ‘shaven turf’ was all mowed by scythe. The present arrangement still requires regular effort by garden volunteers, but also allows Hafod to welcome the occasional big event, and play a full part in the community. I intend to be there.
The garden volunteers meet on Fridays: this year weeding dates are planned for 31 May, 28 June, 19 July, 23 August, 3 October. More volunteers are always welcome, and will find tea and biscuits and a warm welcome in the garden from 10 am till 4pm.