We set off early from our lovely holiday cottage in Ceredigion (extra time is needed for greater disinfection and sanitisation of properties between lettings) and we were going to explore the Cambrian Mountains a little further. However, as we set off it started to rain and, as the hills were shrouded in mist, we didn’t think the detour would be worth our while.
On our way home, on the quickest route via Carmarthen, we passed the National Botanical Gardens of Wales and, following a recommendation from a friend, we decided to stop for a visit.
It wasn’t until we were paying our entrance fee that I remembered that the British Birds of Prey Centre is also based here. The extra entrance fee was very reasonable and so we ended up spending quite some time here. In fact, if it had not been so hot, we could have easily spent the whole day here. My only regret was that I only took my bridge camera with me and missed out on an opportunity for better bird shots.
I particularly liked the juxtaposition of meadows with the formal gardens which created a softer edge to the beautiful countryside all around.
We both were very impressed by the spectacular Great Glasshouse. It was designed by Foster and a Partners and is the largest structure of its kind in the world. The structure is 95 m long and 55 m wide, with a roof containing 785 panes of glass. Housing plants from several Mediterranean climate regions, the plants are divided into sections from Chile, Western Australia, South Africa, California, the Canary Islands and the Mediterranean itself.
There are lots of different gardens but one, the Apothecary’s Garden, was particularly interesting. Each bed contains plants that have been used to treat systems of the body. An extra bed has also been added to show plants that were used by the legendary Welsh herbalists, the Physicians of Myddfai.
I found this piece by Phillipa Davies about the Physicians of Myddfai on the NBG website:
“Myddfai is a village in north east Carmarthenshire. It was here that the first of the physicians practiced. His name was Rhiwallon and his descendants are said to have continued his work, in an unbroken hereditary line, until the eighteenth century.
As well as having mortal lineage, Rhiwallon was believed to have had mythical ancestry. His mother was said to have been the lady of the lake, from the legend of the same name. She is said to have handed to him the secrets of making effective herbal remedies derived from local plants. Rhiwallon became a skilled practitioner, his reputation spread beyond his immediate locality, and along with his sons Cadwgan, Gruffydd and Einion, he was appointed court physician to Rhys Grug (circa.1165 – 1233) of the House of Dinefwr. Rhys Grug was the third son of Rhys ap Gruffydd, ruler of Deheubarth, an area roughly equating to south west Wales. Rhys ap Gruffydd (circa. 1132 – 1197) is regarded by historians as one of the most successful and powerful of the Welsh princes during the early middle ages.
With time the remedies and treatments of the Physicians of Myddfai came to be handed down in written form as well as orally. In the fourteenth century, some five hundred of these were incorporated into a renowned collection of poetry and prose known as The Red Book of Hergest (Llyfr Coch Hergest), one of the most important medieval manuscripts written in the Welsh language.
This brief synopsis of their achievements illustrates how, unsurprisingly, the Physicians of Myddfai have come to occupy a unique position in the historical consciousness of Wales. However, their story also relates strongly to the narrative of the Garden. Firstly, it is reflected in our strong commitment to medicinal plants and the traditions of the apothecary. Secondly, the story of the Physicians fixes the Garden in a context that is historical, cultural and intensely local. As a result of these connections the Garden emerges as the embodiment of both scientific study and magical heritage, the modern world and the ancient past.”
At the British Birds of Prey Centre it was rather sad seeing the birds of prey in cages but we both enjoyed the morning show of the birds of prey in flight. If it hadn’t been so hot we would have been very tempted to stay for a second show in the afternoon with different birds of prey. However, the journey home and the thought of unpacking brought us to our senses.
See next blog for photos.