Eden in the hills

Dyf­fryn Fer­nant Gar­den, Pem­brokeshire

Countryfile Magazine - - Contents -

ocks stip­ple the brack­ened slopes of Mynydd Di­nas, a high point of the Pre­seli Hills, sur­rounded by gorse, rough p93 pas­ture, stone walls and the teal wa­ters of St Ge­orge’s Chan­nel. This is a place of me­galithic sig­nif­i­cance, hud­dled be­tween the deep Gwaun Val­ley and the coast; a place where, to the song of a stream, a sin­u­ous lane rises, ducks be­neath ash trees, twists be­tween hedges and de­liv­ers you to Dyf­fryn Fer­nant.

The gar­den be­longs to this land­scape. It’s a con­ver­sa­tion with the rocks, the tus­socky bog and the blue clay from which it has been coaxed. Bold ex­otics are ac­com­mo­dated among na­tives that creep and drift in by rhi­zome and seed. Most poignantly, it is a place of power and pause be­neath the om­nipresent con­tem­pla­tion de­mand­ing gaze of Garn Fawr, the largest rocky out­crop on the Mynydd Di­nas sum­mit.


But be­fore the re­flec­tion comes ex­cite­ment: the blaze of aza­leas in the carpark; the thrill of turn­ing one bend and then an­other to meet head-on the rasp­berry-sor­bet-coloured farm­house fes­tooned in roses and creep­ers, ris­ing ri­otously from an Im­pres­sion­is­tic blitz of colour. Dahlias, aga­pan­thus and gera­ni­ums sprout from pots and peep from be­tween boul­ders, sculp­tures and mossy stone walls, danc­ing with the sun. Yet even here, among this daz­zle and glee, water slips im­per­cep­ti­bly over the bev­elled sur­face of a bat­tered old brandy still, adrift with quiet re­flected nu­ances of sky and leaves and light.

There are gar­dens within the gar­den. A fern­ery. An orchard. A rick­yard with boldly clipped ev­er­greens and thorns, a court­yard with trop­i­cal plants in pots and ar­ti­choke this­tles with big sil­ver leaves. A swal­lowskimmed pond, full of sky. An obelisk ris­ing from a bog­gar­den, jungly with gun­nera, looses­trife and horse­tails. A water meadow left wild to the or­chids and mead­owsweet, yield­ing to a mossy cwm where tree-ferns min­gle with wil­low. Heady scents, daz­zling colours and the kiss of light spirit you into a trance as the gar­den’s fluid edges dis­solve, and a field of or­na­men­tal grasses – ablur with tex­ture, alive with breeze – whis­pers and re­sponds to the grasses on the hills, while Garn Fawr beck­ons.


Turn left on to the lane and pass four Scot’s pines – that hint that this may once have been a drovers’ road – to reach the me­dieval well of Ffyn­non Llan­llawer. Weeds wave in the dark clear spring (be­lieved to cure eye com­plaints) ris­ing be­neath a stone vault, adorned with flow­ers in jars. This was said to be a wish­ing and curs­ing well in which a straight pin was thrown for a bless­ing and a bent one for a male­dic­tion.

Ad­ja­cent is the derelict Vic­to­rian chapel of St David’s, built on the site of an ear­lier church within an oval en­clo­sure, in­di­cat­ing early Celtic Chris­tian ori­gin. Two 9th-11th-cen­tury stones in­cised with crosses are in­cor­po­rated into the wall at the gate, and two more within the church wall.


Back on the lane, cross the stile-gate and fol­low the track past a wa­tery grove over the field. You are now in the steep-sided Gwaun Val­ley, carved by glacial melt­wa­ter. Fol­low the way­mark­ers past ru­ined barns and a farm, be­tween steep fields to cross a small ford in a field corner. Bear south­east across the field, pass­ing a standing stone to reach a stile be­tween ash trees.

Trell­wyn Wood hides old slate quar­ries. Ferns and holly grow be­tween the mossytrunked ses­sile oaks. De­scend the path to the val­ley base.

The gur­gling Gwaun flows fast and clear and bub­bling, its mossy bank a per­fect pic­nic spot. Treecreep­ers spin up the trunks of beech, hazel and wil­low. Re­flec­tions dance on the water over sick­les of sil­ver sand. Con­tinue along the river, pass­ing a small wa­ter­fall.




Step over a stile be­fore a farm to climb steeply back through the woods, cross­ing an old rail-track be­neath the leaf lit­ter that once car­ried tim­ber to a sawmill at Pont­faen.

Ar­rive in a field and con­tinue along the finch-flocked hedge of ash and black­thorn. Pass­ing the next field bound­ary, peep through the hedge to see the standing stone of Trell­wyn

Fach in the next field. Turn left on to the bri­dle­way be­tween a leafy tun­nel of hazel and hawthorn – the pas­sage­way guides your eyes to an­other large stone,

Trell­wyn Fawr. Pass through the farm­yard on to a nar­row road and turn right.

With Garn Fawr and Mynydd Di­nas above you, con­tinue along the road as it rises, pass­ing scat­tered rocks into a land­scape of tus­socky cin­na­mon moors, with views of the Pre­seli Hills rolling away to the south-east.


Leave the road at the end of the fence, turn­ing left to climb to­wards Mynydd Di­nas, with the rocks on your right. Con­tinue to Carn Enoch, its stone rem­i­nis­cent of the sculp­tures at Dyf­fryn Fer­nant. You can now see Di­nas Is­land and the sea.

Make a bee­line for craggy Garn Fawr. This is one of the al­leged sites of the 1081 bat­tle be­tween Tra­haearn ap Caradog, Caradog ap Gruffydd and Meilyr ap Rhi­wal­lon who joined forces to fight and lose against Rhys ap Tewdwr, Gruffydd ap Cy­nan and the Ir­ish, a dis­rup­tion that fa­cil­i­tated the Nor­man in­va­sion of South Wales.

The land­scape ex­pands and con­tracts as you look out to sea and to the Pre­selis, and then at the in­tri­cate gar­den of lichen on the rock. Around it the grasses whis­per.


Head down­hill un­til you reach the bound­ary sep­a­rat­ing moor­land from farmed pas­ture. Turn left and fol­low it be­tween gorse and boul­ders, cross­ing a stile, and pass­ing

Tr­effyn­non Farm to reach the road. Turn right.

At Parc-y-Meirw – field of the dead – there are two large standing stones used as gate posts, and two more in the hedge. These are the rem­nants of a Bronze Age stone row, aligned with Trell­wyn Fawr and Trell­wyn Fach, and prob­a­bly as­so­ci­ated with re­li­gious or fu­ner­ary rites. Some spec­u­late the stones marked a track­way on which the Pre­seli blue­stones were taken to the har­bour on their jour­ney to Stone­henge. At the junc­tion, turn right on to the lane, ris­ing and dip­ping be­tween hedges to re­turn you to the gar­den at Dyf­fryn Fer­nant.

Carn Enoch rises al­most 1,000 feet above the sea, with views down to Di­nas Head and the coastal towns of Fish­guard and New­port

Julie Bro­minicks is a Snow­do­nia-based land­scape writer and walker.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.