Visitors’ Top Questions answered
Why did you choose to garden here?
Well, it wasn’t quite like that. Sue came here with her late husband (also called Ian) when he was posted here by the Forestry Commission. In those days the house came with the job and most forestry workers lived where they worked. 1200 feet up a Welsh mountain isn’t probably the obvious choice for developing a garden!
How long have you been here?
Sue came here in 1980 and Ian joined her in 1996.
Was there a garden here when you arrived?
Not really, and we only had the area around the house. We started to add on bits of land on the lower side of the road in 2000.
Why is it called Fforest Coal Pit?
Forest Coal is the old name for charcoal and there were a large number of charcoal producing ‘hearths’ lower down the valley. It was used in those days, before coal mining, to fire the blast furnaces of the early ironmakers, the nearest of which was in Glangrwyney. The charcoal needed to be produced near to the furnaces as horse transport over long distances would have turned the charcoal to dust.
How much does the RHS give you for letting me in for free?
Nothing! Being a Partner Garden gives us a lot of additional publicity and the cachet that goes with being approved by the Royal Horticultural Society, but no money changes hands – in either direction.
Do you burn this wood or is it for decoration?
The pyramid woodstack has been described as a giant ‘bug hotel’ (I wouldn’t want to see the giant bugs that might live in it!) but it is for burning. Until last year we would have used the contents of all four woodsheds within a year, but now we use wood pellets for our main heat source, so there’s a bit more time to season the wood and less frantic sessions re-filling the sheds.
What does Monty Don think of it?
He’s never been here, even though he has a property not far away. We think he’d like it. Carol Klein has been here, as have a number of well-known garden photographers. World-renowned garden designer Sarah Price has visited many times and written about us. Alan Titchmarsh came in 2019 and wrote “If there’s a more magical wild garden, I’ve yet to find it! Wonderful”
How do you mow the grass?
No fancy ride-on mower here, the paths are too narrow and the slopes too steep. Ian uses an 18inch Honda Izy. He sometimes describes it as a new sport – Extreme Mowing!
Did you build the treehouse?
Not having either a good head for heights nor the necessary carpentry skills, we called in a wonderful chap called Dan Tuckett and his friend Oli Stinchcombe and they spent a month or two swinging around in the tree like a couple of latter-day Tarzans.
Are there otters on the river?
In theory, yes, but we have never seen one. We occasionally put out our wildlife camera, but nothing as yet. We do see salmon in November as they leap over the waterfall in the new meadow on their way to spawning further upstream.
What is further up the road? Or Can I get through to Hay if I carry on?
Taking the second part first – Not in a car! There’s about a mile of road to the top car park, then about 1.5 miles walk to the Grwyne Fawr Reservoir. So, if you leave us and mistakenly turn right out of the yard, we’ll see you again very soon.
Do you do it all yourselves?
Mostly. We have a lady gardener who comes in one day a week and obviously we call in experts like Dan when a project needs doing. Otherwise, it is just the two of us
What is it like in the winter?
It is like most places; sometimes wet, sometimes windy; sometimes snowy. Occasionally a combination of the latter two cause snowdrifts further down the road, but there’s invariably a farmer with a digger who comes to the rescue. Living 10 miles from the nearest shops means that we are always planning ahead for milk and essentials, so winter isn’t that different.
Are you self-sufficient?
No. We certainly grow a lot of our veggies and fruit, but by no means enough to keep us going all year round. We also get some of our meat from sheep and occasionally pigs, but there’s no tuna or cod in the river!