"To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour."

From "Auguries of Innocence"

by William Blake

Friday, 23 June 2017

North Wales - Part 2: Portmeirion

After leaving Plas Brondanw we drove straight to Portmeirion to book into the hotel.

Reception even has a Prisoner chair!

We had booked to stay in a serviced suite in Upper Fountains about 25 yards from the hotel. It has a fascinating history as Noel Coward wrote Blithe Spirit in this very suite. In 1941 he had decided to write a comedy but he found the noise from the Blitz in London stopped him writing so he travelled by train to Portimeirion staying in Fountains and wrote the play in 5 days! The play opened soon after at The Piccadilly Theatre.

Fountains is to the right of the photo

Beautiful views of the estuary

How civilised is this - awaiting us in the suite :)

The suite consisted of a sitting area (with a mini kitchen), bedroom and en suite bathroom and had stunning views over the hotel lawn and pool towards the estuary.

Early evening and we went a walk round the village - very quiet and peaceful once the day visitors had departed just leaving hotel residents and people staying in the self catering cottages scattered around.

Portmeirion was built by Clough Williams-Ellis after he bought the estate in 1925 for around £5,000. He changed the name from Aber la (glacial estuary) to Portmeirion. His plan was to build a coastal village which enhanced rather than spoilt the landscape. It was built in stages between 1925 and 1939 and from 1954 to 1976. Today all buildings are registered as Grade 1 or Grade II historic buildings. It is surrounded by 70 acres of garden woodland which are well worth exploring because they are full of hidden surprises.

Portmeirion was used for the filming of the 1960's tv series "The Prisoner" which starred Patrick McGoohan.

The Town Hall (also called Hercules Hall) is an Arts and Craft style village hall. In "The Prisoner" it features in the episode "Free for All".

The statue of Hercules by William Brodie in the foreground with the Green Dome in the background.

The Dolphin Pool

The Bristol Colonnade - in the tv series it was associated with brass band concerts.

The Pantheon or Dome - an octagonal building with a dome and octagonal cupola. In "The Prisoner" it was the seat of power for the village's Number Two and just across the square from Number 6's residence.

The Gothic Arch - seen in the village during marching parades. No. 6 walked through its trifoliate archway in "Checkmate" where he sees the human chess match. There is now a permanent giant chessboard on display.

Piazza, Gloriette and Fountain - these were built on the site of an old tennis court. This is the centre of The Prisoner's village. The Fountain pool is signposted as "free sea" - it is from this pool that we first see Rover. Many parades in the series were filmed round this area. No. 6 made a speech from The Gloriette in "Free for All" when he was standing for the office of Number 2.

The Prisoner's House and Lady's Lodge

A wooden statue depicting "Charity" - late 17th or early 18th century.

This building (the Ship Shop) was used as The Labour Exchange in the tv series.

Later in the evening it was time to return to the hotel for our evening meal. The hotel dates back to 1850 and was extended in 1926 and 1930 and restored in 1988. It was the original manor at Aber la and opened as a hotel initially in 1926. It was the Old People's Home in the Prisoner and the lawn in front of the hotel was the helicopter landing pad.

The meal was superb - two starters, main course and dessert. The combination of flavours in all courses was out of this world. I didn't have the nerve to take the camera but got B to take a photo of the puddings with his phone.

Strawberry tonka bean mille feuille with liquorice ice cream and

the Hotel's version of Black Forest Gateau.

The service throughout the meal was excellent and the welcome and help by all staff in the hotel throughout the stay was brilliant. I could get used to stopping here!!

More of Portmeirion in the next post and a trip to see Ospreys (thanks again Rosie for the tip!).

Thursday, 22 June 2017

North Wales - Part 1: Plas Brondanw Gardens

B had one of those landmark birthdays last year and, for his main present, D, E and I bought him a voucher for a night's stay for two at The Portmeirion Hotel. B has been a fan of The Prisoner for years and we have visited Portmeirion and attended Prisoner Conventions many times but this was the first time we had stayed there. Even if you do not particularly like the Prisoner tv series the village itself is an architectural marvel and so picturesque.

As usual we left home later than planned! and had a short break when we reached Corwen for tea and cake and to stretch our legs.

Statue of Owain Glyndwr who in 1400 led a national revolt against English rule in Wales. He was proclaimed Prince of Wales by a Welsh Parliament and won many battles and gained castles over most of the country. He summoned several parliaments and made alliances with France, Scotland and Ireland and set up an independent Welsh church and founded 2 universities. He gave the Welsh hope for many years and his legend lived on even though he died in obscurity having refused to take the pardon offered to him. He is known as the Father of modern Wales.

For some unknown reason the satnav decided to send us across country via a winding narrow "B" road in the direction of Ffestioniog. It was a very picturesque route but

my goodness it took a long time!

It was only early afternoon so we decided to visit Plas Brondanw - a Grade 1 listed garden and one of Sir Clough Williams-Ellis's most important projects. He designed the gardens to fit into the landscape and there are wonderful views of Snowdonia. He was helped by his daughter Susan Williams-Ellis and her daughter Menna advises today on plants and garden management. The sloping site contains a series of garden rooms and terraces and his message "Cherish the past, adorn the present, construct for the future" can be felt throughout the garden.

The house was originally built in 1550 by Sir Clough's ancestor John ap Hywell. Clough was given Plas Brondanw by his father and it became his main interest away from his work as an architect. In 1915 he married Amabel Strachey and they had three children - Susan, Charlotte and a son Christopher who lost his life during World War 2.

Clough's work at Plas Brondwyn gave him the confidence to tackle the much larger scale project at Portmeirion. He died on 8th April 1978. He is best known for his work at Portmeirion (which was built between 1925 and 1978) where he showed how sympathetic development can enhance a landscape. He was a founder member of the Council for the Protection of Rural England and Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales and he supported the development of National Parks. Other works nearby by Clough include Capel Moriah, Llangoed Estate, War Memorial in Garreg, David Lloyd George's grave, Nantclywd Hall, Conwy restaurant etc.

Many thanks to Rosie from "Corners of my Mind" blog who told me about these delightful gardens.

There are lovely views as you walk along the drive to the house.

We had a slice of barabrith and a cup of tea overlooking this lily pond

and then explored the gardens.

Cupid's Folly

I loved the idea of this brightly coloured climber over the yew.

The topiary is composed of Irish and English Yew.

The Holm or Evergreen Oak is the oldest tree in the garden (about 200 years old) with a trunk circumference of 4.59 metres.
Clough and his wife Amabel called it the "bong tree".

In the distance you can see the Mermaid Gates erected in memory of the sea (now departed) which, before an embankment was erected, came within 100 yards of this part of the garden.

Beyond the roses is the area known as "The Full Stop".

"Plants in Walls"

Sir Clough Williams-Ellis and his wife Amabel.

We continued our journey to Portmeirion.........