The Victorian gardens of the UK are one of the most obvious inheritances we have from any past generation. The great bridges, railways, and lighthouses that make such a bold statement of Victorian engineering prowess (not to mention pride) are one piece of the historical puzzle, but the beautifully laid out parks and superb gardens the Victorians left behind show that it wasn’t all about progress and industry.
In South Wales the legacy is more obvious than in most other places. Here, the coal boom brought an explosion in industry but also tremendous wealth- at least to a minority. The people who owned the coal mines, docks, and iron works built fabulous houses and sometimes even castles. Both Cardiff Castle and Castell Coch are at least partially Victorian follies but in the aesthetics of the era the house was just the beginning. A large and spectacular Victorian garden was an equally important way to demonstrate immaculate taste and wealth.
Many of the most beautiful Victorian gardens in South Wales still exist, and quite a few welcome visitors. Take Caldicot Castle for instance. Although the residence dates back to Norman times much of what is on show today is Victorian, and it’s a good place to go if you’d like to see examples of a superbly laid out garden with a little of everything that Victorian Britain valued- wooded parkland, picturesque ponds, immaculate lawns and rolling pastures, all with an interesting historical backdrop thrown in.
Belvue Gardens is another wonderful example. Originally a public park, it was gifted to the people of Newport by Lord Tredegar in 1891. Autumn is the perfect time to visit, if only for the Ginko trees alone. Then of course there’s Bute Park behind Cardiff Castle, and Bedwellty Park in Tredegar. The Victorians of South Wales left behind dozens of beautiful gardens for us to enjoy.