A labour of love: restoring Craig y Ffynnon, Dolgellau

Our March meeting was about a local garden, Craig y Ffynnon, which some of us have visited under the NGS, and which – following Monday night’s talk – we all intend to revisit (or visit for the first time, of course). It’s beautiful – and open on 10 May, when the azaleas and laburnum should be perfection (weather permitting)…

Craig y Ffynnon

Our speaker was Shân Lee, who, together with her husband John, has developed the two-acre north-facing garden since 1989. It has – amazingly given the stunning result -been something they have done largely on a part-time basis (they’ve both had demanding jobs, and had children too), and as economically as possible.

The house was originally built about 1750, with two wings added in around 1870. That seems to have been when considerable amounts of  money were spent in the garden, because there is some lovely mature planting, and features like old cobbled paths were revealed as they worked. A lot had been obscured by undergrowth and Shân described it as almost being a ‘mini Helligan’.

The soil is very acid, and the garden hardly sees direct sunlight for almost three months of the year. It is fortunately very sheltered, but nonetheless there have been significant losses due to the weather and the age of some of the trees. These have been regarded philosophically – ‘you have to live with it in an old-established garden’ – and seen as opportunities instead. The loss of some old trees, for instance, opened up views of Dolgellau:

Criag y Ffynnon

The whole garden is beautiful, and the greenhouse in particular made many of us envious. There had originally been a greenhouse but, like many things in the garden, it had been reduced to dereliction, though an old fig and an ancient vine struggled on. Clearing the site was not easy – there was broken glass mixed in with the rubble and other debris – but it did reveal some Victorian cultivation tricks: the vine, for instance, was sitting on slate, under which were a channel and pipes to keep it happy. It also provided material which could be reused, such as the Victorian bricks.

Eventually a beautiful new cedar greenhouse rose in the garden, completely in keeping with its Victorian spirit:

Criag y Ffynnon 2

There were several lessons to take away, apart from remembering that Criag y Ffynnon is open under the NGS on 10 May. Some of the most significant were
• don’t try and do everything at once;
• you don’t have to spend a fortune: beg, steal (within reason, of course!) and borrow; and
• use a lot of ground cover in a big garden!

What a lovely evening, and what a fabulous garden. Lots to think about…




6 thoughts on “A labour of love: restoring Craig y Ffynnon, Dolgellau

  1. Well done Kate, yes an excellent evening. Like the phrase ‘garden losses are opportunities’, very much my own thinking! Date for visiting ‘Craig-y-Ffynnon’ in diary, look forward to


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