March Newsletter 2021


A little belatedly – the next issue is due out later this month – here is the Bumper Spring issue of the famous Nant-y-Bedd Newsletter.

If you would like to be added to our mailing list for future issues of the newsletter please just drop a line to garden@nantybedd.com.

“Hey darling, I think we’ve been gazumped!

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Easter is the start of the house buying season; at least it is if it’s a nest box you are seeking.

A couple of weeks ago we checked out our boxes, cleaned out the old nesting material and did a bit of maintenance.

I also made a couple of new boxes, one of which we fixed to the Deodar across the stream from the lawn. I made them with holes suitable for Blue Tits of which we have quite a lot – 25mm.

This lunchtime we saw a Great Tit exploring the box but not being able to get in. So I rifled through my drill bits and came up with a 30mm, just a bit larger than the 28mm that Great Tits apparently need.

A few minutes later he (I’m assuming the house hunting is done initially by the hopeful male) came back and after a bit of tidying of the hole, popped inside and had a look around. Apparently satisfied he scooted off to find a suitable lady to share it with. I haven’t checked inside to see whether he left a deposit.

After doing a few jobs we stopped for tea and heard a banging noise coming from that direction. Out with the binos and it was a Nuthatch bashing away trying to make the hole 2mm larger (according to the book).

It looks as though poor Mr Great Tit has been gazumped! Or will he take immediate possession and claim squatter’s rights?

Capturing the spirit of the garden… in 500 words?



We are frequently asked to provide some words about the garden. It always proves tricky. How to convey the essence of the experience in, quite often, very few words? Sometimes we are asked to provide a photograph of the garden. One photograph?

Having just provided something for a specific purpose and feeling dissatisfied with the end product, due to ruthless editing and, let’s be honest, differences of opinions amongst the ‘editorial team’ about what actually is important and significant and truly reflects the spirit of the garden, here’s a very personal edit of the full version and an elaboration of the edit…

Nant y Bedd is a very special 10 acres of organic garden, forest, river and pasture which truly blends into its surrounding landscape, making an already sizeable garden feel even bigger.  The garden nestles in the forested Grwyne Fawr valley at 1200 feet up in the Black Mountains of Wales. Crafted over 40 years the garden stretches up the hill into the forest and slopes gently down to the Grwyne Fawr river.  It is difficult to see where garden ends and wild begins, so well does it sit within its landscape. 

Foxgloves and Sweet rocket in the Forest Fruit garden amongst asparagus ferns in early Summer

It is this naturalness that makes Nant y Bedd so beloved by so many people, be they garden professionals or simply garden lovers.  Not for Sue the stripy lawns and regimented beds of so many gardens.  Here wildflowers – weeds to some – combine with vegetables and fruit trees, unusual varieties sit happily alongside age-old favourites, plants for pollinators abound and seed heads are left for the birds.  A forager’s, florist’s and photographer’s haven.

Weeds’ in the Onion beds

Sustainability, often an over-used word, really comes to the fore at Nant y Bedd.  Not for Sue bought-in compost and potting mixes, she makes all of her own, with compost bins constantly supplying a rich, friable product. Seeds are saved and resown in subsequent years, hazel from the riverside is coppiced to support runner beans and peas, and skips are raided for old windows to make cold-frames.  Electricity from the micro-hydro on the stream powers the heated propagator. Gardening with a light carbon footprint.

Sustainability, light carbon footprint, bee-friendly planting (Rosebay willlowherb is an excellent pollinator attracting plant), saving seed from lettuce in a re-purposed copper (slug-prevention) bowl (ex-domestic hot water tank)

The Potager is described by award-winning garden designer Sarah Price as “through an unassuming wooden gate, we step into a sunlit clearing – and as if into another world. Wild wayside flowers – purple spires of toadflax, orange poppies and acid yellow parsnip flowers – wrestle with broad beans, hops and climbing peas.”   This is potager gardening Nant y Bedd style. 

The Potager in Spring

Other gems include a rope bridge across the stream on the way to a glorious natural swimming pond, where Sue and Ian swim with tadpoles, newts and inquisitive dragonflies, whilst surrounded by native water lilies, purple loosestrife and other native water plants.

Natural swimming pond

A treehouse, cocooned in an ancient Sycamore, looks down on the Grwyne Fawr river, an Special Area of Conservation (SAC) designated for salmon and otter.  Over another  bridge and, in spring, a bluebell fringed walk along the river leads one in to the spooky forest, with sheep skulls among the trees to keep younger visitors entertained. 

The treehouse

Around the house are the Forest Fruit Garden where a Schezuan Peppercorn tree vies with honeyberries, tea bushes, blueberries and wild raspberries, whilst the Cottage Garden abounds with colour all year round and never a piece of bare soil to be seen. 

Cottage Garden brimming with pollinator-friendly flowers and herbs

What started life 40 years ago as a simple country garden has turned into something much more interesting, ‘quirky and confident‘.

Sometimes our visitors can express it better than we can.

Alison Jenkins, garden designer. ‘I came to the garden during Gardens in the Wild with Hannah Gardner and Claire Abery which I guess was about 3 years ago, in June I think.   We all really loved the garden.  It felt really relaxed into itself and you could feel that it had evolved organically over time.  It just had a really special atmosphere.  I especially remember the bed of flowering ground elder, the stunning swimming pond and the wonderful looseness of the vegetable garden.  It felt quite quirky and confident, you could tell that it was in expert hands which knew when to bend the rules’.  (September 2020)

Flowering ground elder. Beautiful, pollinator-friendly and edible. Leading to the rope bridge and the pond.

January 2021 Newsletter

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For those of you who are still not on our newsletter mailing list – it’s easy and doesn’t cost a penny! – here’s what would have come winging into your Inbox a few days ago.

Packed with the usual interesting articles, but this time with a timely piece about gardens and health (on page 5). Much research has been undertaken, some of it sponsored by the National Garden Scheme and the results point strongly to the relationship between gardens and good health (try telling that to my back after a day’s digging!). The NGS also donates funds to both Horatio’s Gardens – at spinal injury care hospitals and Maggie’s – for cancer care units.

Keep safe and well.

The other pandemic


OK, it’s not being called a pandemic, but the spread of Chalara, the Ash die-back disease, seems even more prevalent around here than Covid.

Over the past few years the ash trees that line our valley road have been looking sicker and sicker. Later to leaf up, sooner to drop leaves and going thinner on top than a cartoon monk.

Early last year Natural Resources Wales (what most people will remember as the Forestry Commission) started lopping ash branches hanging over roads and removing whole trees where they were concerned about them falling and injuring someone.

A year ago we purchased the field just below the house. It runs between the river and the road and we realised that there was a sizeable copse of ash right next to the road and most of them were looking sick. Also a copse in the garden by the treehouse were showing symptoms too.

It’s not easy making the decision to have to remove such wonderful trees. First there’s the cost of having tree surgeons in to do it safely, then there’s the worry that perhaps the trees might recover if left to their own devices. and there’s the loss of a part of the landscape. But overriding all of these is the concern of what might happen if due to the disease one fell and crushed a car or cyclist. Having been very nearly crushed by a huge oak some years back, I know how scary and potentially fatal that can be.

So it was with a heavy heart that we called in our friendly – and scarily efficient – local tree surgeon, Matt Corran, for a professional view. Unfortunately, he agreed with our prognosis and managed to fit us into his incredibly busy schedule.

Earlier this week he and his team member Kieran, turned up at the crack of dawn – well 8.15 to be honest! – and set to on the roadside trees. Within minutes he was climbing like a monkey into the highest branches of the first tree – chosen because it was in the middle of a bunch of trees so he could swing from one to another like Tarzan – but on carefully secured ropes rather than jungly tendrils!

Matt, about 50ft up in the air!

It wasn’t long before the first branches came tumbling down – all carefully kept away from the stone wall – and a bare trunk of about 30 feet was left. Enter Kieran to administer the coup de grace, dropping it exactly where planned.

Spot the tree surgeon!

This process continued all day until we decided to leave the last trunk – it is far enough from the road and if it does fall one day only a few fish might come off the worse for wear – as both a symbolic totem and a new drilling site for the woodpeckers. 

Now all I have to do is tidy up the branches and chip them and somehow drag out the trunks and other pieces to the road so I can get them to the yard and the firewood stacks. What took Matt and Kieran a day will probably take me a month!

After a bit of tidying up in the garden bit

The following day it was the turn of those by the treehouse. No climbing this time, but some very accurate felling by Kieran and some helpful winching by Matt and another dozen ash trees lay on the ground. 

All very sad and a story being enacted all over the country as one of the most widespread and iconic British trees succumb to this disease, imported from somewhere else as part of the globalisations of trade and lack of careful controls. 

Wonderful lichen on the felled trunks

I recommend a small book written by the late tree guru Oliver Rackham called The Ash Tree, published by Little Toller Press in 2014. Written in response to the first noticings of chalara in 2012. Only about 170 small size pages with lots of photos and illustrations, but most importantly written in the easy style for which Rackham was noted. He was a lovely man and once sat here at the same table where i am typing this when he came to the valley in search of ancient beech trees. 

Workshops and events 2021.

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In theory, our dates for this year are as below, but double check on the individual course details further down the page

Nant-y-bedd workshops and events 2021 (up-dated 21st April 2021)

Saturday 15th May                  Foraging

Saturday 5th June                   Composting

Saturday 12th June                 Blueprints

Saturday 26th June                 Foraging

Saturday 10th July                   Blueprints

Thursday 15th July                  Composting 

Wednesday 18th August         Foraging

Thursday 9th September        Wild Gardening

Saturday 18th September       Wild Weaving

Saturday 9th October              Artists’ Willow Charcoal Making

Saturday 16th October            Foraging

Saturday 13th November        Foraging

Artists Willow Charcoal Making Led by Jess Tanner

Saturday 9th October

£60 including all materials, delicious seasonal, organic lunch, tea & cake.

Click here for more details

Wild Weaving Led by Jess Tanner

Saturday 18th September

£60 including all materials, delicious seasonal, organic lunch, tea & cake.

Click here for more details

…and some old favourites – book early as they tend to be filled quickly.

Wild Gardening with Sue

Saturday 24th April (Postponed – please watch this space for an update), Thursday 9th September

Compost workshops   with Sue

Saturday 5th June, Thursday 15th July

How to make the crumbly brown gold….

£65 (20% RHS Member discount) incl 2-course lunch, tea & cakes. 10.00 to 3.30

Contact us on garden@nantybedd.com to book

Foraging   Led by Liz Knight (Forage Fine Foods)

As seen on TV! Don’t be humble, forage in our “magical’ garden, not a windy hilltop!

Sat 15th May, Sat 26th June, Weds 18th August, Sat 16th October, Sat 13th November.

Liz is so enthusiatic

£95 incl wild cocktail, lunch, teas.  10.00 to 2.00

Details/booking at www.foragefinefoods.com

Blueprints Led by Ruth Barnes Richards

Saturday 12th June, Saturday 10th July

Blue and beautiful

£60   Materials included.  Bring picnic lunch

Details/booking at www.thedaylightthief.com

Salmon Leap – part 2

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It seems that most of what we saw a couple of weeks ago may have been Sea Trout, rather than your actual Salmon.

This one though is almost certainly a salmon, and a successful salmon at that.

I got this clip on my iPad running slo-motion mode and then a heck of a lot of editing to get just the key part. It was on Monday and I saw five in all, but only this one on film.

Since then it’s just been cold and wet standing by the waterfall without seeing anything. How do these professional wildlife photographers and camerament do it!

Salmon – or Trout – leap?

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It was like a scene from an Alaskan wildlife film, tumbling waters and leaping salmon.  Was there a bear there trying to catch them?  I’ll leave that to your imagination!

It is many, many years since we had seen salmon on the river and then usually further up in the shallows as they lay there spawning. But now we have the new field we have the perfect salmon leap waterfall and the opportunity to stand and watch. 

It was by chance that, one morning after reading my rain gauge, I sauntered down the river to see how the overnight rain had raised the water level.  I was just turning away when something caught my eye.  

We’d heard from a friend in Llangenny that the salmon had been spotted down there, so maybe one had managed to get up to us.  Yes, there it was again – or maybe it was a different one.  After being sure that I wasn’t seeing things, I ran back up to get Sue and together we watched as about a dozen forced their way through the churning water and launched themselves – with varying degrees of skill and luck – at the four- or five-foot high barrier in front of them.  

Surely it must be trial and error, for the waters were so rough and muddy that they wouldn’t have been able to see where they were going.  But they kept on and some surely must have made it. 

Many weren’t as big as we would have expected, maybe sea trout rather than salmon, but some were a reasonable (main course) size!  

We watched for three or four days then there were no more.  It was almost impossible to get a picture of them.  One had no inkling of when one would break the surface and the jump lasted for less than a second.  Even with finger poised over the camera button all we got was water!  I tried leaving the video running for more than ten minutes at one stage, but they were being particularly camera shy and again all I got was water.   

Our neighbour Nick did manage to capture a video – slowed down 10x here! – of this small one – probably a sea trout – which looked as though it didn’t make it, but otherwise you will just have to believe us. 

Post script: Via the wonders of social media, I’ve been informed that what we were seeing were indeed trout and that the salmon should be coming soon. Thanks @LoveYFenni. Back to river watching for me then.

Wriggly tin garlic


A few weeks ago we had most of the shed alongside the road re-roofed. The old wriggly tin had been there since before Sue’s arrival here in 1980 and was leaking, particularly over the forge.

It’s a long story, it should have been done about two years ago but, to protect our not-so-innocent friendly builder, it wasn’t. Bizarrely, one of the guys who did the job, during one of the hottest weeks of the year, is a relative of someone who lives further up our valley!

What’s that got to do with garlic, I hear you say? Well, a couple of years ago – when the roof should have been done! – Sue decided to grow the garlic up the hill behind the house. It’s one of the sunniest bits of the garden. It’s also a heck of a long way to carry buckets of water in dry spells. Result: a couple of years with pretty poor crops of an essential cooking ingredient.

But now we have a big pile of slightly rusty wriggly tin. What to do with it? How about a new garlic bed / container? After all the round wriggly tin works well in the yard tfor the fuschia. Cue Sue’s “I’ve got an idea!” and me disappearing under the duvet in the hope she might forget when I emerge.

She didn’t!

The outcome? A new place for the garlic to grow. It can get really hot in the yard. I know from greeting visitors there, over the years. Slight problem, it’s not flat, so some careful measuring is required.

First make a frame. Easy enough with all the odd bits of timber around the place, but it was getting a bit iffy in terms of finding enough long screws.

Then clad the frame in wriggly tin.

Ooops! Got the frame back to front at the rear – never mind!

I thought that was my bit done. No! I was also required to fill it.

Apparently there’s something called HugelKultur which means growing on rotting logs. We’ve plenty of those down in the spooky forest, so off we go with the tractor and bring back three or four loads.

Logs, nettles and composted wood chip

On top of the logs goes a layer of green material – here it’s freshly cut nettles – and then a layer of well rotted woodchip – yet more trips with the Fergie.

Woodchip and nettles

Then we added a layer of what is basically sand. When we had the big storms earlier in the year, the stream brought down loads of sandy silt, which we had to shovel up off the road. Good to have found a use for it.

After that came barrow loads of well rotted horse poo, from our late neighbour Rob up the road. Apparently I wasn’t meant to use all of it, but a communication glitch (and she was out for the day!) meant around 7 big loads of s**t went to fill up my beautifully crafted frame

And then came the planting….

Having done so much of the work, I’ve ‘demanded’ that it contains garlic and only garlic – none of that “companion planting” stuff!

Time will tell!!!

Oh yes, I was about to paint it a lovely black, but I’m told shabby chic is best. Won’t last as long though!

…and then there was one!


Those of a nervous disposition may care not to read on.

A week ago we had three drakes, six hens and a cockerel. Today we have one drake, five hens and a cockerel. Such are the joys of keeping poultry in the countryside.

Last Friday only two drakes turned up at bedtime. Not too unusual as one does occasionally get seperated from the others and normally is waiting outside the hutch in the morning. But not this time.

Then on Saturday lunchtime there was a kerfuffle in the chicken field. We didn’t get there in time to see anything but a pile of Light Sussex feathers and a trial of smaller ones down through the new field.

So what was it? Fox? It wasn’t our old foe the goshawk as the body was obviously dragged under the fence.

Then this morning I went out to let the two drakes out and there was only one – and a hole chewed in the bottom corner of the door about three inches across. Also the heavy fork tines which we rest against the door, in case the catch breaks, was tossed aside.

As it happens I had the wildlife camera in there last night as we thought we might have a rat. So I grabbed the photo card and rushed in doors.

Something was going on at about 1.15 this morning, but peer as I may I couldn’t see anything apart from one drake coming out into the run.

Whatever it was – and I’m looking for suggestions – either chewed the hole, squirmed in, killed one and dragged it back out. Or chewed the hole, the inquisitive drake stuck it’s head through the hole and was dragged through and away.

There’s hardly any feathers in the hutch or outside, so it was a clean getaway – hardly any DNA for a sample!

So, fox? Mink? Badger? Ideas please! We have spotted this fox recently, nipping in to get some cat food, so maybe the prime suspect, but wouldn’t a fox have dug under the duck run, rather than chewing through the door?

The poor remaining drake is looking somewhat shellshocked and can’t decide whether to stay indoors or go out to the stream. I think I might put him in with the chickens for company.

Odd things happening


It’s the 1st of October and we’ve just picked some cracking raspberries for breakfast. Nothing strange there you may think – they must be Autumn friuting varieties. Well, yes, some of them are but the best berries have come off what should be normal summer varieties.

Next to the raspberries is the strawberry bed. For those who follow our Newsletter, (or if you don’t, see the last two issues here on the blog) you will know that this year we grew early, mid season and late varieties. The earlies are flowering ……

…. and even have some green berries on them!

Strawberries for Christmas dinner anyone??

At the other end of the scale, we have apples going mouldy on the tree even before the majority of them are ripe for picking. OK this isn’t quite as unusual, but our Tom Putt’s don’t normally do this and are usually best for picking towards the end of the month.

I blame it all on the weather. We’ve just gone from the second wettest month this year – August – to the second driest – September – and the poor plants don’t know what year they are in!

Sue tells me that the courgettes have totally failed as well, so it’s not just the plants that I tend!

September 2020 Newsletter

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For those not on our mailing list – hint, hint!! – here are the latest info and thoughts from Nant y Bedd.

August 2020 – and Wabi-sabi

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When the garden looks its fullest and lush.  Potager burgeoning with organic produce.  Fruit trees dripping with luscious fruit.  Seed-heads ripening .  Some for producing seed for sowing next year and others to feed the birds over the coming Winter.  Teasels, sweet rocket, Russian sorrel, mimulus, toadflax and more.  Dahlias, cosmos, phlox and monardas flowering their socks off and doing their thing to extend the riotous, chaotic colours of Summer into the Autumn…

Dahlias, Tagetes and Hollyhocks before the storm
Fennel and flowering chicory before…
Monarda didymus before…
Monarda Prairenacht before…
The onion beds …with ducks

2020 has been different.  2020 has been different in all sort of ways.  In the garden here the lashing rain and thrashing winds of Storm Francis dictated that the (always reluctant) Autumn ‘tidy up’ this year is happening in August,  So much for the welcoming of imperfection and enjoying the changing seasons and  dynamic natural forces at work in the garden.

The Japanese have a word for the acceptance of transience and imperfection. Wabisabi (侘寂). The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete”.But, in my view, there’s nothing aesthetically pleasing to the eye about bashed stuff, snapped off dahlias and teasels lying prostrate. Wabi sabi is fine in Autumn into Winter but in August?  No.  So a tidy up it has to be.

Monarda Cambridge Scarlet survived largely undamaged

Onions had been harvested and some seeds gathered before the storm.

Some of the onion crop harvested before…
Sweet rocket and honesty seed heads drying before..
The runner bean tunnel survived with only minor damage
These Heritage peas were harvested when we heard the weather forecast…

We are leaving some areas untouched for the birds, the bees and the butterflies and trying to embrace the situation as an opportunity  to do a bit of editing and some replanting.

Leaving some for the butterflies
Phlox paniculata remained upright and the leek seedheads are only slightly bent…
A bit tidy…replanting in this bed with aquilegia, sweet rocket and evening primrose

But it’s all beginning to look alarmingly neat and tidy for August in our garden.  We’ll be doing elaborate topiary and manicured lawns next…and spraying herbicide on the pea gravel drives?  No, I don’t think so.


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Most of you are now thinking about shenanigans in high political places in America.

Watergate to us is a fence across our river, placed to attempt to keep sheep out of an area by stopping them using the river as a transit route.

We’d never realised that people other than us wouldn’t know what one was until a friend saw ours and asked what it was. So here’s a bit of background.

The Grwyne Fawr (the river that frames the bottom of our land) is a tributary of the River Usk, a river famed for its salmon and trout fishing. As such the Grwyne Fawr – pronounced griinee vower – is a designated SSSI – site of special scientific interest – and the higher designation SAC – special area of conservation.

There are definitely trout in the river, we see them in the deeper pools when the surface is relatively calm, and there used to be huge salmon coming up to spawn, but we haven’t seen any for some time now.

What’s that got to do with watergates for sheep you may well ask? Well, some years ago an organisation called the Wye and Usk Foundation – a conservation / angling body – came along and asked if we’d help out by having some of the riverside trees ‘laid’ – like laying a hedge. The idea of this is to make shady places for trout and salmon to hide and escape predators and alos to encourage insects on the surface of the water for the fish to feed on.

One of the watergates today –
ten days ago there was no water coming under the left hand side!

In order to protect these laid trees there was a need to keep the sheep out, thus the watergates at each end of our stretch of river. Nice idea, but the ‘forest sheep’ managed to find ways of getting round the gates, as sheep always manage to do!

So that’s the reason the gates are there. Nowadays with this interesting weather we are having the watergates have taken on another role: that of river depth gauge! The gates are suspended on wires stretched across the river which allows them to swing upwards as the water level and speed increases. However by looking at the angle of the woodwork it’s possible to see, roughly, how deep the water is. Back in February with Storm Dennis and co. the gates disappeared entirely underwater meaning a rise of at least four feet!

Water like that, needless to say caused some damage, and so I could have been seen bare-leggedly standing in front of one of the gates just recently with my trusty cordless drill in hand!

So next time we are able to welcome you back to the garden you will be able to explain to your companions what these strange structures are!

By the way, as I write this on August 21st we have just recorded the second highest monthly rainfall of the year to date – and 10 days still to come – so there’s unlikely to be any sheep trying to cross the torrent!

July Newsletter

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Here, for those who don’t get our bi-monthly Newsletter delivered straight to their mailbox, is the latest blockbuster from Nant y Bedd Garden!

If you would like to get your copy direct, just drop us an e-mail to garden@nantybedd.com.

We hope you find it enjoyable and interesting and we’d love to hear from you

Virtual Tour of Nantybedd Garden – Part Three

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Concluding our virtual tour of the garden as it was this May. It has been an interesting exercise, not least in the decision making process of what constitutes a ‘good’ picture and what doesn’t – let’s just say we din’t agree every time!

Day 10

The wildflower meadow. A little bit of cheating here, as we have included some shots of flowers in our new field, part of which will become a wildflower haven in the future, and a couple of things from the cottage garden. But first of all….

The path through the meadow by the pond
Fox and Cubs by the house
Yellow rattle by the apple trees
Aquilegia by the pond
Ox-eye daisy
Stitchwort in the new field
Lady’s smock
Pignut, plus some Lady’s Smock and buttercup
…and a dew covered cobweb!

Day 11

The star of Alan Titchmarsh’s visit last year, when I had to give him a telling off for running on the bridge and scaring the ducks – watch the clip posted last autumn!

Built about 12 years ago to Sue’s specifications by Daryl Rogers, the rope bridge is always a big talking point for visitors – some think it is too wobbly, others just want to cross it again and again.

Low-down looking towards the pond
Looking from the pond …
…and looking from a higher point

Day 12

We come back across the road to the original areas of the garden around the house. Immediately around the house is the Cottage Garden.

Bright morning sun illuminates the planting by the patio
The wonderful bronze leaved Rodgersia
The Alliums are looking good this year
A bit of everything below the greenhouse!
Sweet Rocket, with Iris and Bistort behind by the little pond
I think the run-off from the compost heap makes this lot grow so well!
Alpine strawberry, carrot, parsnip and, in the background, peas
Flowering Chives, Myrtle, Good King Henry and dark purple Aquilegia

Day 13

We reach the end of the tour in the Forest Fruit Garden where we find not only the usual strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries, redcurrants and blackcurrants, rhubarb, blueberries, asparagus and walnuts but unusual things like Honeyberry, Japanese Wineberry (taste like wine gums!), a tea bush and …

..the Sichuan peppercorn tree, with Aquilegia and Welsh Poppies
in the foreground is the Asparagus bed
Strawberries? Yes! Musk Strawberries- native of Eastern Europe.
One of the Plane Trees lit by the early morning sun
Looking across the Cottage garden from under the Walnut Tree
Fancy a cuppa?
Stunning Maple (l) and Walnut tree (r) shade the comfrey bed
A bit of art to finish off!

We’ll probably post some bonus pictures – those that didn’t quite make the final cut in the next week or so, but we hope you enjoy being able to ‘visit’ our garden even though you can’t actually be here at the moment.

A Virtual Tour of Nantybedd Garden – Part 2


The second of what will be three parts of our current virtual tour of the garden.

Day 6

We move into the Spooky Forest. Planted many, many years ago by the Forestry Commission as a Christmas tree nursery – if you are good with heights we’ll lend you a saw to cut a ‘tree’ from the tops!! – and never really managed. There’s also some lovely, huge, Douglas Fir at each end, and a few stands of Ash, at the moment.

Looking skyward- there’s Christmas trees up there!
Not all logs reach the fireplace.
This lovely rill lined with wood sorrel runs through
…and Wild Garlic is starting to thrive
We hope we don’t lose this lovely old Ash
The Eagle’s Nest – something odd happened up there!
Why it’s called the Spooky Forest!
Name the native broadleaf trees in this pic!

Day 7

Do you remember the song “Down by the Riverside”? Well, that’s where we were on day seven. We’ve about 250 yards of river along this stretch (plus about another 350 alongside our new field) and, after clearing decades of brash and brambles, all sorts of flowers have sprung up.

Bluebells and Stitchwort, with Ian’s fave chair in the background
The stone in the river is quite geometric
Ferns unfurling
More bluebell with Pignut
A nice place to sit and let the world go by …
…or climb down and dangle your toes in the water

Day 8

Heading back into the garden, hidden in the embrace of an 178 year old Sycamore (we have its birth certificate, if you don’t believe me!) is our much loved treehouse. Designed and built by Dan Tuckett (after an initial plan by Mick Petts) with help from tree-climber Oli Stinchcombe, it is both a thing of beauty and a great place to spend some quality time listening to the birds and the river.

The shape of the tree was just crying out for this, and Dan and Oli managed to do it all with only three (stainless steel) bolts into the tree itself, the rest is clamped round and counter-balanced. Fantastic job!

The main A-frame
Looking down the path with the new gate in the distance
View from the new field
Halfway seat – with convenient drink holder!
Looking back toward the turbine house …
…and down to the river.

Day 9

Today we get to the pond. A wonderful place to sit and chill, or even more wonderful to slip into and bash out a few lengths of breaststroke. The border planting keeps the water crystal clear by gulping up any algae-inducing nutrients and looks beautiful as well. If the weather turns, then a quick dash to the shelter of the Shepherd’s Hut is all that is needed.

Grasses can be beautiful too
Pale lilac Iris just coming into show
Cotton grass and looking down the valley
Shepherd’s Hut and Sue’s little yacht
Big Gunnera and huge Douglas Fir behind
Sit, sleep or read – the choice is there

Do enjoy our pictures. We are not sure at present whether we will be able to open this year. But keep watching here and on Instagram.

More pics in a few days

A Virtual Tour of Nantybedd Garden -Part One

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This weekend should have seen our annual opening for the National Garden Scheme, but the COVID-19 has put a firm end to that, so this week and next we are posting a series of images on Instagram and Facebook to help you to get your ‘fix’ of our lovely garden.

We are following the route that Sue takes in her Candide Gardening audio tour, and today we reach day 5.

We do hope you enjoy these pictures and will come – maybe again – to visit us when we can open. At this point in time it is all so uncertain that we can’t even say whether we will be open at all this year.

Day one

The woodyard, which as visitors will recall is the start of the Nantybedd tour, our meet and greet place.

The attention grabbing pyramid
Looking down from the road
Pea sticks and the hardwood stacks

Day two

and we move into Sue’s little domain – the potting shed – the hub of all that happens in the garden – or Home as Sue calls it!

The door to Home
She doesn’t actually use those riddles!
Potting on .. in the potting shed
Dried flowers from former years .. and redundant signs this year
Seed storage and tools

Day three

We move back outside to yet another key factor in our gardening ethos – compost. You may have been on one of Sue’s Compost Making workshops or seen our earlier published video (which has been used by the National Garden Scheme) on making the perfect compost. If you haven’t then it’s a potential Oscar winner!

The composting hub
Owl keeps a close eye on the leafmould bin
Compost in use on the spuds
Compost bins come in all shapes …
…. and sizes!

Day four

Through the gate into the potager, home of flowers and vegetables, and wonderful hazel support frames.

Welcome desk!
Through the gate – the onions are looking good
Recycled windows make a great cold frame
Planting out the runner beans at the tunnel
Hazel sweet pea supports

Day five

Venturing through the runner bean tunnel, we come to our tree carving Cedric, who symbolises our approach to editing nature, not dominating it.

Cedric and a bit of Sweet Cicely
Close-up Lovely green ‘hair’!
Sue does like writing Haikus
Self seeded conifers …
…and ferns
Just then along came the ducks!

There’s more to come. We’ll be publishing some more early next week – keep watching.

You can also help the National Garden Scheme to continue to support such worthy health and nursing charities as Macmillan Cancer Support and Queen’s Nursing Institute – to name but two – by donating to our JustGiving page – scan the QR code below with your phone or tablet for instant access to our page.

May Newsletter

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For those of you who are not ‘signed up’ to receiving our bi-monthly Newsletter, here is the latest issue.

To get it straight to your e-mail box, just ask!

May 2020 newsletter p1

May 2020 newsletter p2

May 2020 newsletter p3

May 2020 newsletter p4

Building the bean tunnel

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Over the years of our opening the garden we have had so many comments about the hazel tunnel we build every year or so (depending on the winter weather) that I thought we’d give you a quick insight into how it is constructed.

First of all, harvest your hazel poles.  We are fortunate in having two areas from which we can select just the right size sticks, although those in our new field will need quite a few years of management before they give a useable crop.

Here’s Sue, with trusty Silky saw, down by the river.


Make sure you have enough and they are long enough

Then assemble your tools;

Something to make good deep holes in your soil


Lots of good string – here we have sisal baler twine


and two people.

Work out how long the row needs to be and make a start, keeping the distance between the opposing sticks as close the same as possible.

Here we are after the first half a dozen (out of 27 pairs)


You’ll see later the process of matching up the two opposing sticks works.

Tie in the two sticks to make the arch, making sure you keep a constant height all along – it will make things easier later.


Here we have about half of the arches complete.


and this is how you make them



Speedy aren’t we??

Now it’s just a case of tying it all together. First with long straight sticks along the apex to make sure the spacing is correct.


then the all important side sticks, woven in (it’s not that easy) to provide a really solid framework.


And, in the immortal words of Blue Peter, here’s one I made earlier.  Actually, WE made today.



Tunnels like this have survived snow, rain and high winds and provide a lovely, easy way to pick your beans.

Now all that’s needed is a bit of warmer weather to plant the beans!

Here’s what it looked like in Summer 2018


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