When myself and dad of 3 bought our first home together it was in the South Wales Valleys some twenty minutes from Cardiff. It was close to dad of 3’s family, his work and a close commute for me to get to university. Then when I qualified I worked for the local authorities surrounding us. Although we spent so time visiting local places it tended to be the cinema, restaurants and shops but when our eldest two sons arrived things changed. Don’t get me wrong I’ve always enjoyed open spaces, the sea, parks etc but they all took on a new meaning for us when the boys arrived.
Weekends were spent exploring the local area to find family friendly places that we could enjoy as a family. I can’t remember how we discovered Dyffryn Gardens but I remember feeling we had discovered somewhere special. Somewhere that the boys could run, ride, climb trees and somewhere that was frozen in time.
Our first visit was some nine years ago now but I still remember driving down the track not quite sure if we were in the right place. I think there was a little hut/shed to one side of the parking area which was manned by the Friends of Dyffryn Gardens. A group of people who were trying to save Dyffryn and it’s treasures. We paid a nominal fee and continued along the path. Stopping quite suddenly when this big stately house came into sight. I remember looking at Dad of 3 and exchanging looks and smiling. We continued around the back of the house taking in the vast gardens. Even back then the gardens where breath taking, I remember thinking where to start. There was a huge lawn set out into different sections, one with a fountain and a water feature running almost the whole length of it.
Dyffryn Gardens quickly became a favourite place to visit, taking back our parents and trikes etc on numerous visits. Each time we discovered more of what Dyffryn had to offer. Many conversations were had about how we would love to go inside the house and discover it’s secrets and that we hoped one day Dyffryn Gardens would be saved.
We moved away from the area and to West Wales when Trystan was 18 months old. The weekend before we moved was the last time we visited Dyffryn. Several times over the last seven years we have said we must visit Dyffryn Gardens again but we have never managed it. I discovered last year that Dyffryn Gardens was now in the care of the National Trust, I can’t tell you how delighted I was.
Sadly the opportunity never arose to visit last year but I was determined we would visit soon. So on Wednesday when I took the children to Cardiff along with my mum I knew it would be an opportunity to go. I packed a picnic, the sun was shining and I for one was excited. My mum was attending a meeting in Cardiff while I was taking the children to Dr Who’s Monster Day out in Cardiff Bay with one of my brother in laws. The night before I had told my mum that I was planning to head to Dyffryn Gardens for our picnic.
As is often the way best made plans don’t always run to plan, my mums meeting over ran which meant we lost an hour of the time I had hoped to spend at Dyffryn. Undeterred I got everyone in the car and made our way towards our destination. The car park was packed when we arrived and everyone was starving so we unloaded our picnic and headed on to the grass just behind the parking area. There was now a fantastic looking children’s play area, cafe and visitors centre where the old hut/shed had once stood, already I could tell Dyffryn had been brought back to life and was being enjoyed by so many people.
Checking the time after we had eaten I realised that we would need to be back on the M4 within half an hour if we were to avoid the rush hour traffic so our time was limited. We all need the toilet so we put the picnic things back in the car and headed to the new toilet block. My mum then knowing how much I wanted to go inside bought us all an ice cream and we paid and headed through the gates. The children were all excited, the older two only had vague memories of our visits here and where eager to run on ahead.
Seeing the house open and live breathed into it was lovely, I was just sad that we would be unable to go inside on this occasion. We rounded the corner into the grounds behind the house to be greeted by people enjoying the sun and surroundings, a game of croquet on the lawns ( something I remembered always been set out) and others enjoying the gardens. It was wonderful to see so many enjoying themselves and the gardens. We had enough time to walk across the back of the house, along the path down the length of the first lawn before we had to head back to the car. None of us wanted to leave, I wanted to explore again and look inside the house but I knew if we didn’t head home now we faced rush hour traffic and potentially a very long journey home. I promised the boys we would be back soon, our brief visit had reminded me of how much I love Dyffryn Gardens. So now I need to work out when we can return, it will have to be soon and several hours will be needed to explore this hidden gem.