Saturday, 2 March 2013

Of Flowers and Follies: Plas Brondanw


Many people will consider this heresy, but I really don't like gardens. It's stronger than that, actually. The sight of flowers depresses me and when allied to regimented hedges and ornamental borders I find myself craving the chaos of a quarry pit, with self-set conifers and weeds abounding. So it is strange that one of the places I like to visit when a spare hour opens up is Plas Brondanw. Perhaps it's because the first thing one sees at Brondanw is a disused quarry pit, albeit emasculated and landscaped to oblivion.  But I have to hand it to Clough Williams-Ellis, he had style and panache and his dedication to architecture and the two great projects of his life, Plas Brondanw and Portmeirion draws more than a little admiration from my stony breast.

Portmeirion is a masterpiece, of course. But I love what he has done in the moorland surrounding Plas Brondanw. The house and it's architecture (lets not mention the garden, eh?) is fascinating, but my favourite part is the Folly castle, imaginatively named "Folly Castle" by C W-E in a rare moment of unoriginality. On the way to it, the quarry opens up below, and you can stand by a monument to the rebuilding of the Plas and look down a vertiginous defile to the flooded pit. Oak woodland frames the walk, becoming more gothic by the moment until the castle is reached. The view from the ramparts is spectacular, taking in Cnicht and the Moelwyns, Snowdon and in the other direction, Moel y Gest, the Garreg flats and Harlech.The trained eye can also spot a couple of mines in the Tan-y-Allt woods at this time of year, with the leaves off the trees.


I have strong memories, both happy and sad of this castle and in a funny way it has become a part of my life, as it has for very many people, I am sure. If you haven't been, I recommend a walk through the woods to the folly, where you can stand and look at the view and forget your troubles for a few minutes. You might want to visit the gardens, too. Not everyone is a miserable curmudgeon like me. 

(I had actually been persuaded (dragged) to visit the gardens this time by the promise of a cup of coffee from the cafe, but luckily for me, the gardens were closed. I admit, flowers are almost bearable while sipping a cappucino and tucking in to a choc chip cookie.)

Link to The Plas Brondanw Site

Wikipedia


4 comments:

workbike said...

I've often wondered if some of what we call 'Gardening' is about dominating the little parcel of the planets surface we live in, as if the landed Gentry could somehow prove their dominance (and therefore superiority) over the world in their control, rather than accepting they were a part of it.

I get the same feeling when people come and talk about our 'messy' bramble-filled garden: the brambles are doing what they do, and apart from persuading them to leave me a section of land to do my thing in, I'm not going to stop them, especially as they provide cover to wildlife, and handily, stop the hill from falling into the valley, but because it doesn't present a nice 'tidy' (Human dominated) view of carefully manicured lawns and neat flowerbeds it's somehow 'messy'

Or maybe I'm a treehugging hippy.

Iain Robinson said...

I'm with you totally there, Andy. There is this urge to tidy and make order. The holiday cottage owners that are our neighbours spend most of their holidays "tidying" and suburbanising the riot of vegetation that surrounds their houses. We don't bother, because we like it like that.

If you are a tree hugging hippy, you are in good company; I have done my share of lying down in front of bulldozers.

geotopoi said...

#2 - fantastic vignette!

Plas Brondanw has been on my list for a visit for ages, but we've somehow never managed to get there yet.

I seem to remember reading something about the Folly being a wedding present from his fellow army officer chums (who were apparently somewhat bemused by the request)

Iain Robinson said...

Thanks, Graham. It's well worth a visit, esp when the cafe is open!

You're right about the folly...says something about the rarified folk he mixed among that they could afford a folly as a leaving present, although I guess labour was cheap then and the stone plentiful.

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