The Wye Valley, in south Wales, is an ideal location for anyone who enjoys gardens and countryside. OverTheBridgeToWales invited me to visit two gardens in the area, and I am planning to go back and see some more. But what is special about the Wye Valley, and what is there for garden lovers?
The Magic Of The Wye Valley
The Wye Valley is designated as an Area of Outstanding National Beauty (AONB). For good reason: the steep narrow banks of the winding river create magnificent views and a unique ecosystem. As Gemma of the Wye Valley Sculpture Garden told me, this is a “magical place”, a place where mysterious morning mists give way to the unique beauty of the valley. Gardens built on the slopes of the river bank capture the essence of this magic.
Sitting in one of the tranquil gardens you may feel as if you are miles from anywhere, but it is very easy to get to the Wye Valley across the Severn Bridge from England. It’s the best of both worlds: easy access and a sense of remoteness!
The Wye Valley Sculpture Garden
Rising high above the River Wye, the Wye Valley Sculpture Garden is the vision of Gemma Kate Wood, an artist and landscaper. The garden itself is ancient, but it has been worked by Gemma’s family since her grandparents bought it in the 1950s. Over the last two years Gemma has been re-landscaping the garden and filling it with her own sculptures, mostly fashioned from wood. The aim is for the garden to be organic and sustainable, to promote wildlife and nature.
As a visitor I was struck by the peacefulness of the garden. You can see that it is the work of an artist, the trees, plants, water and bridges in harmony with their surroundings. It is full of hidden spaces, where you might come across a sculpture, a woodland path, or a sudden view across the valley.
The Wye Valley Sculpture Garden is open on Sundays during June, July and August, and at other times for groups. It also opens for a weekend in February, when the garden is covered with snowdrops.
Wyndcliffe Court is an Arts and Crafts style house and garden (UK readers may recognise the house from the BBC series “The Victorian House of Arts and Crafts”). I was shown round by Sarah Clay, whose husband’s grandfather commissioned the house in 1922. Sarah has done lots of restoration work on the gardens, retaining the original blend of nature and formality.
The garden is high up: as you enter there is a viewpoint looking down to the Severn estuary. A paved terrace in front of the house leads to other areas, including a walled garden and a sunken garden. There are ponds, greenhouses and ancient topiary. And flowers and butterflies everywhere.
The gardens of Wyndcliffe Court can be visited by appointment. Or you can enjoy a day of lectures or activities at the Garden School. Best of all, you can actually stay in the house – a wing of Wyndcliffe Court is available via AirBNB – and enjoy a personal tour of the gardens.
Other Gardens In The Wye Valley And Monmouthshire
Thanks to OverTheBridgeToWales for arranging my visit, and to Gemma and Sarah for showing me round their gardens.