Length: 2 miles (3.2km)
Time: One hour
Not suitable for wheelchairs or pushchairs. Sensible outdoor footwear is recommended.
The most challenging of our four Garden Walks is this one. At 2 miles long, it’s not too far. What makes this more challenging is the terrain – it can get a bit muddy and you’ll also have to walk up a bit of a long slope. In return, you’ll get some great views, get to meet our friendly livestock and maybe see some wonderful wildlife, wildflowers and fungi on Waun Las National Nature Reserve
Beginning at the main western entrance of the Great Glasshouse, you need to follow the blue coloured posts and directional arrows.
These will lead you down the hill, past the Tarw (Welsh Black Bull), an outstanding sculptural tribute by Builth based sculptor Sally Matthews to Welsh Black cattle. This breed has been grazing our Waun Las National Nature Reserve for the past 20 years and have helped us to diversity o the wildflowers on our meadows.
Near the bottom of the hill, go straight on where the blue arrow tells you to.
Before you cross the stone bridge, have a look over the left side. This is Llyn Mawr, one of newly restored Regency lakes which we hope to open up to visitors in the autumn on 2020. You may see the bobbing head of a dipper on the steam running into the lake. Go through the kissing gate and you’ve entered Waun Las National Nature Reserve – an organic working farm where we actively encourage wildflowers and wildlife to thrive.
Follow the grassy track to the abandoned 1930s farmhouse. The field on your left was once home to the family of sea explorers who made their fortune trading in spices from the Far East – they lived in a big house here in the 1600s called Middleton Hall. There would have been ornate flower gardens and a fountain on the field on your left. The image shows an archaeological dig here in 2012.
Go through the gate and follow the track up the hill. This old pathway may be hundreds of years old and would have been used by the family of Regency park owner William Paxton to ride their horse and carriages up to Paxton’s Tower, the folly on the hilltop you’ll see higher up. You’ll pass a very old oak on your left – notice how thick the tree trunk is – this is one of our oldest oaks.
You then pass an old stone arch which is known as Paxton’s Well. 200 years ago, this was used to control the water flow down to William Paxton’s Middleton Hall.
Near the top you’ll come across a magnificent wooden bench sited which will allow you to sit and enjoy outstanding views across this former Regency parkland. Notice the engraved drawings of plants on this – you’ll find these knapweed plants here in the summer.
At the top of the hill, turn right and walk along the brow of the hill. Soon you will have outstanding views across the whole Garden and they’ll give you a great perspective of how the Great Glasshouse sits in the landscape like a giant raindrop.
The next field is a wet pasture, Cae Ceffyl. In late June and July you should see a rare plant here – the whorled caraway Carum verticilatum. The county flower of Carmarthenshire, it’s only native to small parts of SW Britain. Our Welsh black cattle help us to control the rush in this meadow and provide more space for whorled caraway to spread.
From here your walk is downhill across Welsh Black cattle and Balwen sheep grazed pastures. On Cae Calc, there’s a wonderfully positioned bench for you to rest and enjoy the views across to the Garden. Try closing your eyes and listen for 10 different sounds – it’s amazing how many different sounds are in the countryside.
Notice the old oak trees in this field – they would have been planted specifically to enhance the landscape.
At the lower end of the Cae Calc you’ll bear right into Cae Waxcap. The hillside on your right is of international importance for waxcap fungi – multicoloured mushrooms which are killed off when artificial fertiliser is applied to the land. Because of this, waxcaps have declined form much of the Welsh countryside but Wales is still one of the best places in the world to see such exotic looking fungi. The best time to see them here is in autumn – the image shows a typical collection of waxcaps that can be found here. We graze this field with Balwen sheep specifically to keep the grass low in autumn, allowing the wind to spread the spores of these short mushrooms.
From Cae Waxcap, turn left back past the 1930s farmhouse.
The field on the left is undergoing a bit of an experiment. In 2019, we spread hay from a wildflower-rich meadow onto this grass dominated pasture. Will this help this field become rich in wildflowers? Our scientists and volunteers will be monitoring it closely. We’ve successfully transformed other fields on Waun Las into orchid-rich meadows and we’ve begun collecting and selling wildflower seeds that we collect from them.
Just before you leave the field, have a look at the pile of trees branches on your left. These can be full of huge and exotic looking fungi. Pass throhg the gate and the Great Glasshouse is just up the hill.