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Clyne Gardens

Clyne Gardens are currently owned by the City and County of Swansea and open to the public all year round (free admission). Throughout the month of May each year the gardens are promoted for 'Clyne in Bloom', to showcase the spectacular display of award-winning rhododendrons and azaleas in full bloom.

Clyne Gardens

The nineteen hectares of botanical gardens in Clyne were established by the millionaire William Graham Vivian in 1860, who devoted time and money, ensuring the gardens reflected his financial status.  During his occupancy Vivian planted three notable trees in front of Clyne Castle, a Wellingtonia and two Monterey Cypress; one of which is of fastigiate form and the tallest recorded in Britain.

When the gardens finally passed to Vivian's nephew, Admiral Algeron Vivian, in 1921 the mass accumulation of significant plants continued until his death in 1952.  Algeron 'The Admiral', financed plant collecting expeditions to China and the eastern Himalayas to fill the garden, particularly the 800 rhododendrons that bring the gardens certain acclaim. He also included decorative features such as a red Japanese Bridge, the romantically styled Admiral's Tower and a Gazebo.

Admiral's Tower

Industrial History

Clyne Valley use to be an important area of industrial activity and this heritage is still visible in the County Park, such as the old twin cylinder horizontal steam-winding engine remains of Ynys Colliery.  Coal mining started here from 1305 on a small scale and developed into a large scale coal industry in the 16th century.  The Clyne Wood Colliery operated from around the turn of the 20th century working the shallow coal deposits here. 

Remains can also be found of an ironworks near Clyne Quarry in the north and a chemical works off Mill Lane in the south.

To support the developing industries in the valley, the Clyne Canal was built in 1799 and a tramway connecting with Mumbles Railway was built in 1804.  The park's cycle track and footpath follows the trackbed route of the former LMS railway from Swansea Victoria to Shrewsbury.

The last industrial activity in Clyne Valley was brickmaking, which ended during the late 1950s when the Clyne Valley (Killay) brickworks closed.  The bricks produced were clearly stamped for easy identification and can still be spotted locally today.

Clyne Killay brick

Clyne Wood and Hen Barc

A one time forest, Hen Barc forms an area of partly enclosed land to the west of Clyne Wood. This area was once a post-medieval encroachment, used for preserving and hunting game such as deer, possibly dating from the mid-sixteenth century or before.

Clyne Wood was exploited for a variety of uses ranging from the production of wood products, rabbit farming in the eighteenth century (pillow mounds evident) and arsenic production at the Clyne Wood Arsenic and Copper Works up until 1860 when Clyne Wood and Clyne Farm were incorporated into the Woodlands (Clyne) Estate of William Graham Vivian.

Growing in the upper part of Clyne wood are oak, birch, hazel, alder, buckthorn, crab apple with wood horsetail and lemon-scented fern.

Cycle Path

Clyne cycle path

Clyne Valley cycle path dissects the quiet woodland of Clyne Valley and continues through Dunvant to the large conurbation of Gowerton. This spectacular 4.5 mile stretch of cycle path was built upon an old disused railway line and connects Blackpill, Dunvant and Gowerton. This is, without doubt, Gower's finest cycle path.



stella.elphick@gmail.com (Stella Elphick) Parks and Gardens Wed, 15 Aug 2012 23:01:32 +0000
Cwmdonkin Park http://www.explore-gower.co.uk/explore/swansea/parks-and-gardens/cwmdonkin-park http://www.explore-gower.co.uk/explore/swansea/parks-and-gardens/cwmdonkin-park

Opened in 1874, Cwmdonkin Park will forever be remembered as Dylan Thomas' Park. His presence has even been felt in the park in ghostly form:

"This sea town was my world ...
And the park itself was a world within the world of the sea town;
quite near where I live,
so near that on summer evenings I could listen on my bed,
to the voices of other children playing ball on the sloping paper-littered banks;
the park was full of terrors and treasure."

- Dylan Thomas, 'Reminiscences of Childhood'

Using the main entrance off Park Drive, the first delight offered by the park are the landscaped water gardens. Making use of the natural spring that flows here from Townhill, the water gardens were opened in 1974 to mark the Centenary of Cwmdonkin Park, and offers a home to a host of fascinating animal life, including frogs, newts and toads, water voles, weasels and a variety of dragonflies.

Dylan Thomas Memorial Stone

Also finding its home here is the Dylan Thomas Memorial Stone. The stone, a carved block of Pennant Sandstone, was paid for by two elderly ladies who ran Caedman Press in America. Upon Dylan Thomas' death, they sent £50 to Vernon Watkins for him to choose a suitable monument to honour the poet and author in his home town.

The block of stone was purchased (from Cwmrhydyceirw Quarry) and carried by local sculptor Ronald Cour, whilst the lines inscribed upon its face were chosen by Vernon Watkins from Dylan Thomas' poem "Fern Hill".

Drinking Fountain

Water Fountain

A little beyond the water garden is an old drinking fountain that was mentioned in Dylan Thomas' poem 'The Hunchback in the Park':

"The hunchback in the park
A Solitary Mister ...
Eating bread from a newspaper
Drinking water from the chained cup
That the children filled with gravel
In the fountain basin where I sailed my ship."

Unfortunately, this chained cup has long since vanished.

Dylan Thomas Memorial Shelter

Deeper within the park is the Dylan Thomas Memorial Shelter, opened in 1977. The shelter overlooks a large play area which was once a reservoir.

Dylan Thomas Memorial Shelter

During the Three Nights' Blitz of February 1941, this reservoir found service by providing water to extinguish the blazing town centre that burnt at its feet. After the war, considered dangerous to the children who played in the park, the reservoir was drained and refilled with the rubble from the blitzed town.


Another interesting feature of Cwmdonkin Park is that it is planted with trees from around the world, amongst them Palm trees from the Mediterranean, a Monkey puzzle from South America, a Tulip Tree from North America and a Handkerchief Tree from China.

Further botanical interest can be found in the park's Ornamental Garden where each spring and summer as many as 60,000 bedding plants are introduced to the surroundings, whilst those of an athletic ilk might wish to hire one of the tennis courts situated near the bowling green.

If possible, try to remain in the park until its closing time, as the evenings often bring owls and foxes into the gardens.

In living history, there once was a cherished anachronistic moment to be had in listening to the sound of the bell that was rung at each close of the day at the park - the same bell commemorated in the writings of both Dylan Thomas:

"Soon the bell would ring for the closing of the gates"

- Dylan Thomas, 'Return Journey'

and Vernon Watkins:

"Stone-runged streets ascending to that crow's nest
Swinging East and West over Swansea Bay
Guard in their walls Cwmdonkin's
Gates of light for a bell to close"

- Vernon Watkins, 'Ode to Swansea'

Swansea Council stopped this tradition.

Old postcard of Cwmdonkin Park

stella.elphick@gmail.com (Stella Elphick) Parks and Gardens Wed, 30 Jan 2013 22:24:44 +0000