National Botanic Garden of Wales
National Botanic Garden of Wales
One of the great gardens of Britain, based around an historic 18th century water garden. The centrepiece of the garden is the Great Glasshouse, the largest single span glasshouse in the world. Another highlight is the 200-year-old double walled garden, where 17,000 herbaceous plants run along the wall.
The gardens are a blend of old and new. The old dates back to the early 17th century, when the powerful Middleton family erected a mansion here. In 1789 Sir William Paxton bought the estate and set about creating a water garden. He called upon the architect Samuel Pepys Cockerell to design an opulent new mansion and turned the 17th century house into a farm building.

Paxton's water gardens was an amazing project combining innovative engineering and aesthetic design. A system of reservoirs, sluices, and dams fed streams linked to ponds and lakes by a series of cascades. On a hill overloooking the mansion Paxton erected a dining pavilion now nown as Paxton's Tower. After his death the estate was sold to a wealthy merchant named Edward Adams who let the garden buildings fall into decay. Generations of subsequent owners let the estate fall into a state of disrepair.

The house was eventually pulled down after a fire, and the historic gardens might have vanished completely were it not for a chance discovery. The aunt of artist William Wilkins was walking her dog in the woods at Pont Felin Gat when she discovered the ruins of water features. She told her nephew of her discovery, and the rest, as the saying goes, is history. Wilkins lobbied for a national botanic garden incorporating the historic garden features. After years of planning and work, the gardens were opened in 2000, with the Great Glasshouse standing on the site of Cockerell's mansion house.

The Great Glasshouse
The centrepiece of the botanic gardens is this amazing structure designed by Norman Foster and Partners. The Great Glasshouse is the largest single span glasshouse in the world, stretching 328 feet long. Within the glasshouse is a steep-sided ravine dropping almost 20 feet into the earth. The ravine sides are cut to form rock terraces, and streams and waterfalls tumble down to a lake at the bottom of the ravine.

The humid environment created by the ravine makes for a unique habitat for tropical plants and species rarely seen in Britain. Experience a recreation of a Spanish olive grove, see fuschias from Chile, and find out what its like after a bush fire in Australia.

There's far more to see than just the Great Glasshouse, though. The grounds cover 568 acres, dotted with historic buildings and futuristic prototypes. See a Japanese Garden, containing a tea house, surrounded by cherry trees. Follow lakeside walks and experience the restored double-walled garden. Sculptures are scattered throughout the gardens.