Thursday, 2 February 2012

Plas yn Rhiw

After my Go Below adventure I was hoping to take part or visit a slightly less exhilarating attraction, and luckily the Walking North Wales group were very kind! I am embarrassed to say that I had never come across Plas yn Rhiw before, however one of the reasons I am writing this blog is discover the beautiful secrets of North Wales, and I certainly found one today. This amazing National Trust owned house has parts dating from as far back as the 17th Century, I say parts because, as you walk around the house you wonder through time from one century to another.

I had heared of  the ‘Snowdrop weekend’ taking place on the 4-5th Feb, and thought I must visit and see what the fuss was about, I didn’t realise that I was in for such a treat. I was introduced to Llifon Jones, the resident gardener who took me on a tour of the beautiful gardens where I was able to see the incredible snowdrops firsthand. This really is a special flower and the delicate snowdrops blanketing the ground underneath a canopy of branches truly is worth a visit. The view from the gardens overlooking the ocean of Cardigan Bay is spectacular and I was rather jealous of Llifon’s ‘office’!

                                                                         The Snowdrops

I do not have a great knowledge of horticulture I’m afraid, however that didn’t mean I couldn’t enjoy the delightful garden, in fact I believe it made it even more interesting. Llifon explained that most of the plants on the grounds are not indigenous to this country and many originate from exotic places such as South America. One area of the garden however is extremely Welsh - the budding orchard. Plums, pears and apples, all of which are native to the area grow there. In fact,  certain apples are only found in this area, the diamond apple which only grows in a cottage garden in Dyffryn Ardudwy can be seen in the orchard.

This weekend the gardens are open to the public and this is a fantastic opportunity to admire Llifon’s work, the breathtaking view and the precious snowdrops. The Plas itself opens next month for visitors; however I was kindly shown around by Mary the curator, a local lady who is incredibly interesting and clearly has a love for the house. She can offer tours of the house for groups which is something I will most certainly do in the future.

The establishment has a long history and it is now being preserved as it was during the time that the last owners lived there.  Eileen, Lorna and Honora Keating were three unmarried sisters originally from Nottingham who lived in the house with their mother Constance. In 1938 the estate was on the market for £600 and unfortunately the house was in a state of disrepair and the garden wild. Lovingly with the support of their good friend Sir Clough Williams-Evans of Portmeirion the sisters restored and saved the house and garden and it became the incredible place you can visit today. Despite coming from so far away, the family had fallen in love with the area and endeavoured  to preserve the natural beauty of the Llyn Peninsula, the locals now seem to possess a deep gratitude for all that they have done.

Lorna (the second sister) was the last to die in 1981, however when learning the Keating family history  with Mary today I was incredibly interested in Honora, the youngest sister. She was awarded an OBE for her incredible work with the council focusing upon Maternity and childcare, her beautiful paintings are to be found all over the house and I got the distinct feeling that she was the driving force behind the family. Even during that same afternoon I conducted my own research on Honora Keating and visited the three sisters’ grave at Llanfaelrhys as she is such an intriguing character.

The siters' grave

This blog will never quite portray how charming and modest this house is and despite the fact that most of the furniture is covered until next month I still enjoyed exploring around.  I was shown some fantastic paintings by R.S. Thomas’s wife and Mary explained that you can see the contents of the cupboards and drawers from a link on the National Trust website . Sir Clough Williams-Ellis’ influence is clear in both the house and gardens due to quirky features such as doors and roofless outbuildings which make the property so unique.

A quirky image on the kitchen wall
The chance to view the Snowdrops this weekend should not be missed, even if you don’t usually visit opens gardens I really feel that the grounds have so much to offer and anyone would have a fulfilling experience, especially if the weather is as glorious as it was during my visit! Llifon Jones the gardener will be discussing the event on S4C’s Wedi 7 on Friday 3rd Feb and I’m sure it will be an interesting watch. The house is certainly worth coming back to see and I’m so pleased that I was able to learn about its history and the fascinating stories of the previous owners.  

During the 1950s the Keating sisters gave the house to the National Trust and I am personally extremely grateful!

1 comment:

  1. Looks fabulous. I am ashamed to say I haven't been either! Should rectify that.