NATO Conference and the National Botanic Garden of Wales

Published: Saturday 6th Sep 2014

Written by: Ginnie James

Wales has been in the world’s spotlight this week with the NATO conference in Newport dominating the news. Things seemed to have gone well, from a location point of view at least, and I heartily agree with Barack Obama and David Cameron that Wales is well worth a visit. Hopefully their glowing endorsements will encourage even more people to come and discover what our country has to offer.

There may not be a military flypast for you or a police escort to a castle banquet but you are assured of a warm welcome and the stunning landscapes can be enjoyed whoever you are! I wonder who had the job of deciding what went into the gift baskets given out as souvenirs to the leading dignitaries? How on earth would you start with such an array of fabulous Welsh products to choose from? Including an item related to our national game was a must but maybe some of those involved may have preferred a signed photo of Leigh Halfpenny – Wales international and voted ‘Sexiest Man in Wales 2013’ – instead of a rugby ball! Another news story this week that will hopefully lead to another very good reason to take the trip to South Wales was about the National Botanic Garden of Wales.

One of the premier attractions in Wales, they have been granted money from the Heritage Lottery Fund to develop plans for an ambitious project involving archaeology and the restoration of the Regency landscape of the estate in which grounds the garden now is located.

Great Glasshouse at The National Botanic Garden of WalesThis story really appealed to me. Having an archaeology and heritage degree I am always pleased when I learn about major digs going on that will eventually lead to a development fitting to the site that everyone can enjoy. Also, being a Georgette Heyer fan (for those of you who haven’t come across her she is a C20th author who wrote many popular books including over 30 Georgian & Regency romances), I love wandering around gardens of that era imagining the intrigues that may have taken place.

I do get a bit distracted after reading these kind of stories as I enjoy looking up (oh the wonders of the internet) a bit more of the historical background that doesn’t get mentioned in the news report. The story of the site where the gardens are to be restored could well be the subject of a novel with family fortunes won and lost during the time of the spice wars!

The Middleton family settled in the Carmarthen area towards the end of the C16th and over the next 150 years were instrumental in the development of the East India Company and made their fortune through cultivating and trading plants and spices. But stars wane and in the 1780s the estate was bought by Sir William Paxton, who had also become rich through the East India Company.

To display his great wealth Sir William set about building a brand new hill top mansion encompassed by seven lakes and employed the most celebrated landscapers of the age to create wonderful vistas. Let’s hope the rest of the funds can be found for this fascinating project to go ahead. I will be in the queue once it opens - see you there!

Ginnie James
Ginnie James



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