on October 1, 2006
About 20 miles east of Hay-on-Wye and 5 miles west of Hereford is the National Trust property of The Weir. These gardens have been in the ownership of the National Trust since 1959, despite the fact that they were only created in the 1920’s. Roger Parr, a Manchester banker, gave the 430-acre estate to the National Trust, having spent many years ensuring that the river defences were firmly in place and able to withstand the ravages of the River Wye. We were somewhat thrown when we concluded our walk around the gardens, as we’d expected to see the weir. There’s no sign of a weir, and apparently it is over a century since one existed, almost half-mile downstream from the gardens.I don’t believe that we were visiting at the best time of year, as springtime is said to be particularly beautiful. It is from February onwards when the bulbs form a carpet throughout the garden. However, this informal garden still provided some interesting walks along the riverbank with some great views in an amazingly tranquil setting. There was certainly no doubt in our minds that this garden is well placed in this designated area of “high landscape value”.Starting at the log cabin entrance, at the foot of the small car park, there is a range of walks around the garden. There is a gentle walk that is fairly straightforward (although none of the paths are suitable for wheelchairs), but it still comes with a “slippery when wet” warning, and in the damp weather, the advice given is to wear “sturdy shoes”. But we’d had a very dry few weeks and were well able to manoeuvre our way round in sandals. You do need to be fairly nimble to access all the paths, and to appreciate the full glory of the garden, it’s preferable that you make it, on more difficult terrain, to the lower level along the banks of the beautiful River Wye.Taking the lower route, we passed the well that was rumoured to be “holy” and of Roman origin. In reality, this octagonal feature, although made up of some Roman masonry, has been contrived, not necessarily to deceive, but to provide a focus in the midst of the natural wild flowers and plants that abound here. Farther down the path is the 1920s boathouse (still in use) and a Romanesque-styled summerhouse. Continuing along the bottom route, we were attracted to the Rockery garden. Apparently this is built with stone from the cheddar Gorge, and there are some terrific contrasting colours in this section.For the best views of the river and the surrounding countryside, you’ll need to be at the top of the gardens near to the mid-18th-century country house. This place is not open to the public, as it is on a long-term lease as a private nursing home. The elderly folk here must certainly appreciate the views from the bottom of their garden!
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