Dyffryn Gardens is a hidden gem nestled in the beautiful countryside of the Vale of Glamorgan. Within the grounds which extend to 55 acres sits a majestic mansion which overlooks grand Edwardian gardens, an arboretum, ponds, sculptured walk ways and intimate walled gardens.
The National Trust took over the management of the property in January 2013, on a 50 year lease, continuing the maintenance and restoration work begun by the Vale of Glamorgan Council, owners of Dyffryn.
The Estate’s history can be traced back to the 7th century when the house was called the Manor of Worlton and was given to the Bishop Oudaceous of Llandaf. In the 16th Century the Button family acquired the manor. The family occupied the estate for a number of generations and the name was changed to Duffryn House.
In 1891, John Cory, a very wealthy coal merchant bought Dyffryn and built the present mansion. His wife Anne and two of his four children Florence and Reginald moved there from Devon. Reginald was a passionate horticulturalist and collaborated on the garden design with Thomas Mawson in 1906.
Along with other horticulturists, Reginald brought back species gathered on expeditions across the world, propagating and breeding many exotic and foreign plants – a legacy which can be seen today by visiting the glasshouse. Here you are transported into the tropics and rainforest as vines trail and vibrant orchids bloom, then onto the desert where you will find cacti which thrive in the temperate zone – here these exotic plants are protected from the cooler climate of Wales.
In 1937, after Florence died, Sir Cennydd Traherne bought the estate and two years later leased it to the Glamorgan County Council. Since then the house has been utilized for numerous ventures including a police academy, education and conference facility and even a dog training center.
Dyffryn house stands at the heart of the gardens, and contains a mix of décor styles. Some rooms have been partly restored, and some are furnished, but unlike many stately homes where you are warned not to touch the furniture or furnishings, here visitors are actively encouraged to interact with the surroundings.
The Blue drawing room has been turned back into a music room with an 1830s grand piano, which you can sit back and listen to volunteers play. On a rainy day in the Red Library you’re invited to curl up on a comfy sofa and enjoy a book from the shelves of the second-hand bookshop.
Dyffryn’s gardens come alive in the autumn when the exotic and ornamental trees planted by Reginald all those years ago turn to shades of gold, red and orange. They have considerable scientific and botanical significance forming one of the best woody collections in the National Trust.
Children are well catered for with a well laid out playground and regular activities within the house and gardens. When I visited, rows of child-size barrows, forks, rakes and red string bags were lined up beside paths, waiting for budding gardeners to fill with fallen leaves to make into leaf mulch. The piles of crisp leaves were great for children to run through, and play with. I stumbled upon a dad and two mischievous children who were shrieking with laughter as they played among the leaves.
Open throughout the year Dyffryn Gardens is a place to visit in all seasons, from the bright flowers of spring, picnics on the lawn in summer, the colours of autumn leaves to the sheltered walled gardens in winter.
Dyffryn Gardens, St Nicholas, Vale of Glamorgan, CF5 6SU