Situated within a lowland rural landscape of gently undulating hills, valleys and floodplains, dramatically set beneath the marginal uplands of the Black Mountains, with 2 acres of garden and orchard. The gardens immediately around the old farmhouse feature a close knit collection of distinct character areas, including vegetable plots, shrub borders, open lawn, rose pergolas, cottage garden borders, ornamental kitchen garden. To the south of the farmhouse gardens lies the old orchard featuring many veteran fruit trees, including cherries, apples, pears and plums.
No longer grazed or routinely cut, the orchard floor was becoming increasingly dominated by tall herbs and scrub, predominantly Nettle (Urtica dioica) and Bramble (Rubus fruticosus agg.). An abundance of standing and fallen deadwood occured throughout. Marginal areas were dense thickets dominated by Bramble. Recent fruit tree planting and self sown plum species added to the age diversity amongst veteran fruit trees. The significant pond at the southern edge of the orchard has a widely fluctuating water level through the year. This “draw down zone” can be a niche habitat for specialist species. Unmanaged and dense hedgerows with mature trees enclose the orchard. Though mostly culverted a seasonal ditch stream flows along the southern boundary of the orchard.
Gwent, the historic county of Monmouthshire, is renowned for having a long history of being the heart of fruit production in Wales. Although declining in the last century, during the mid 1900’s over half of all Welsh orchards were found in the county. This site itself has featured an orchard within its boundary since at least the late nineteenth century, and presumably long before.
There are some strong design elements in the garden proper, with a dense stand of coloured Dogwoods amongst a copse of Silver Birch, a pergola with rambling roses and clematis, a Box parterre enclsing beds now used for growing vegetables. Fruit, vegetables, herbs feature prominently amongst the traditional cottage garden ornamental planting.
The old orchard was very overgrown with scrub and tall herbs. Slowly the ground flora of a more species rich grassland is being encouraged through sensitive meadow cutting. It is a lowland neutral grassland, deep fertile soils prone to flooding, so robust grasses and tall herbs will always be very competitive here. Not too tidy though, keeping a balance between control and letting the wildlife flourish!