Historic launch is start of new era for Garden

The National Botanic Garden of Wales is celebrating the official launch of its Regency Restoration project after a year of record visitor numbers and huge approval ratings for its new attraction.

The multi-award-winning, newly-restored landscape, which opened to the public in March 2021, has helped push the Carmarthenshire attraction’s visitor figure close to 200,000 – the largest annual attendance since the Botanic Garden opened in May 2000.

The £6.7 million project was announced in September 2014 and this signalled the start of a two-year development phase followed by four years of construction and delivery of the largest project the Garden has ever undertaken.

The work has restored features of a Regency period landscape, created in the late 18th and early 19th century for Sir William Paxton, in what is now Waun Las National Nature Reserve. It includes two new lakes, bridges, dams, cascades, a waterfall and an extensive network of paths all set in 300 acres of wooded parkland.

The new area has already been singled out for special awards. In March of this year, it was presented with the internationally prestigious Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) People’s Choice Award. The project was also awarded the ICE Cymru Alun Griffiths Award for Community Engagement and was a runner-up in the Georgian Group awards.

Interim Director, Catrin Evans said: “This massive undertaking has been a supreme team effort, kick-started by an amazing fundraising campaign, huge community involvement every step of the way and fabulous work by volunteers, staff, designers, ecologists, local craftspeople, architects, engineers and many more.

“This carefully created integration of botany, landscape, heritage and agriculture brings benefits for the visiting public as well as the wider tourism industry.”

Andrew White, Director of The National Lottery Heritage Fund in Wales, said: “Heritage can be anything from the past that we value and want to pass on to future generations. This is an outstanding example of the past brought back to life for us to learn from yesterday, enjoy today and pass on to tomorrow.

“The project is more than a landscape; it’s a habitat, a historic narrative, a place to relax and a testament to the hard work and dedication of staff and volunteers over a number of years.”

The original owners of the estate where the Botanic Garden now stands were the Middleton family who began to lay out formal gardens from the late 16th century.

It was not until the estate was bought in 1789 by MP for Carmarthen, Sir William Paxton, that the grounds really came into their own.

Protegé of world-famous landscape architect, Capability Brown, Samuel Lapidge was commissioned to design the landscape and gardens to include an innovative water park with water flowing around the estate linked by a network of dams, sluices, bridges and cascades.

Using the source material of specially-commissioned watercolours of the estate in 1815, the project has now transformed the 300-acre area into a woodland and water wonder.

The official launch of the project takes place on Friday May 27.

* The National Botanic Garden of Wales would like to say a huge thank you to all our funders who have supported this project, these include The National Lottery Heritage Fund – and all those who play the National Lottery, Carmarthenshire County Council, Welsh Government, The Waterloo Foundation, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, The Pilgrim Trust, Country Houses Foundation, Patsy Wood Trust, The Monument Trust, Garfield Weston Foundation, The Mercers’ Company and last – but by no means least – the Richard Broyd Trust, whose support has been invaluable.

The Regency Restoration project has been made possible by National Lottery players who raise more than £30 million every week for good causes in the UK. It is just one of the more than 635,000 good causes in the UK that has received a share of over £41 billion raised by National Lottery players since 1994.