Dyffryn Gardens - Enchanting Havens
The Pompeian Garden, the extensive Arboretum and a series of outdoor garden rooms, all restored to their 1920's splendour.
Glimpses of what seems like a white and warm stoned palace can be seen just beyond the thin row of trees lining the north lawn. Walking past the East Lodge you are first greeted by a heather bank with various paths leading up to the revived arboretum. And then, as you round the corner you finally catch your first uninterrupted view of the sun soaked Dyffryn House.
The grand Victorian house stands at the heart of the gardens. The estate has a history that can be traced as far back as the 7th century but it wasn't until 1893 that it became the dizzying array of 16th century fireplaces, commissioned stained glass windows and intimate outdoor rooms we see today.
John Cory, a titan of industry, bought Dyffryn in 1891 and built the present house in 1893 but it was his son Reginald, a passionate horticulturist who commissioned famed Edwardian garden designer Thomas Mawson to collaborate with him on turning Dyffryn's 55 acre estate into an experimental oasis.
But while the beauty of the rose garden, the warmth of the vine walk and the joy of playing croquet on a summers afternoon out on the south front lawn are all delightful, it is a different delight that always brings me back to Dyffryn.
The Red Library
To call the red library simply a second hand bookshop would be a serious understatement. Let me paint you a picture.
As you enter the house through large column framed doors, you uncover room after room adorned in delicate craftsmanship. Renaissance inspired art covers the ceilings, rooms filled with antique instruments and towering roman pillars, others with gramophones and crimson silk wallpaper. Every fireplace more ornate that the last. Then you enter a more....understated room. Sunlight filters across old mahogany window seats, the soft light revealing the main features of the room, an extravagantly carved marble fireplace and bookcase after bookcase overflowing with books. As you enter you hear echoing throughout the rooms another visitor of the house playing Sonata No.14 "Moonlight" in C-sharp Minor" on the 1830's grand piano in the blue drawing room. You step forwards and ready yourself in front of the first bookcase. Let the hunt begin.
This unusual library contains books covering endless subjects all donated by people who cherish the house. There are so many books in fact that the house had to open up a second bookshop taking up half the art gallery cafe down the hall.
The greatest books in my collection have all been found in Dyffryn House and the most expensive books in their price bracket are an utterly outrageous £1, so anyone can find a unique addition to their personal library.
My most cherished finds from the house are a well loved 1943 edition of "Twenty Poems by Rupert Brooke", a second edition of "The Green Carnation", multiple treasured leather bound poetry books from 1957 and finally 7 old and rather heavy volumes of Pictorial Knowledge, which were so heavy in fact that the volunteers of the library had to lend my P.A a small handcart to get them back through the gardens to the car, all the while I was too distracted hunting for more rarities to be of any practical assistance.
Most of the National Trust houses and castles are now aiming to have bookshops full of books which are all donated by some of the most interesting readers in the country. Tredegar House, a few miles east of Dyffryn has recently opened a bookshop that has great promise for curious finds.
Dyffryn Garden's is a wonderful mix of different periods and styles, full with lavender folly's, exotic glass houses and a large collection of foreign species that Reginald brought back from plant hunting forays all over the world.
I believe Dyffryn to be the most enchanting haven I have explored so far.
So far that is....