Glyn Bach and the making of a garden
Updated: Feb 14
The earliest record of a house on the site is 1842 when the property was known as Clyn Bach. Originally the property was owned by the nearby Gilfach Quarry and was divided into two houses; one for the Quarry manager and one for the Quarry foreman.
Photo 1. Clyn Bach 1946 when divided into 2 properties (Courtesy Len Elvins)
In 1972, Len Elvins purchased the property in a run down state and made it into one house. He added an extension to one end to include a bathroom and had the roof lifted to give more bedroom space and height. There was no land with the house but Len was extremely kind to the farmer over the road and was able to purchase several small plots of land around the house, in total just under acres.
Photo 1. Len had raised the roof and added the extension (Courtesy of Sandra Savage)
Len worked for the Waterboard and realised that the natural clay basis on the lower field, with a natural spring, was ideal for a large pond. In came the large excavator and huge glacial rocks were lifted and made into a boundary wall. The pond was dammed at one end with the overspill returning to an existing stream which eventually meets the Eastern Cleddau.
Photo 1. Excavator digging out the clay pond ] Photos courtesy
Photo 2. Large rocks which were left in the pond ] of Sandra Savage
Photo 3. Pond today
A lover of woodwork, Len restored an old stone barn that was just a pile of rubble, over several years, to provide himself with a workshop. It became his haven with a log burning stove and bench, from where he made furniture.
Photo 1. Len rebuilding the old stone barn
Photo 2. Roofing the barn
Photo 3. Len making furniture in his new workshop (Photos courtesy of Sandra Savage)
Len's commitment to the infrastructure at Glyn Bach gave the gardens the backbone we are lucky to have today. We felt privileged to know Len in the last years of his life and his ashes are scattered under the oak trees, a place he loved and his family planted a tree, Acer pseudoplatanus 'Brilliantissimum', with a memorial stone in his memory.
We purchased the property in 2012 as we could see the potential of the land, with its varying terrain, as a large garden. It has so many unique areas, a large pond surrounded by a bog garden, slate faces, bluestone outcrops, wide stone walls for alpines and all surrounded by ancient woodlands.
Our first job was to remove a huge triple hedge of Scots Pines which had reached a height of about 50 feet and completely blocked out sunshine to the hillside and the house. They had been planted to stop the farmer driving his cows through the property, so they served a purpose but these trees are shallow rooted, thus not advisable to be too close to a property. To hide the tree stumps we created raise vegetable beds around them, until they rot out naturally.
Removing these trees opened up the hillside and we were then able to make mixed beds down the slope. Slopes are very useful for drainage in damper areas as the water is free flowing away from the roots. Many of our Monarda fistulosa are planted in these beds as they dislike winter wet.
The next big job was to create access around the pond as the outlet end had become badly eroded; a wooden pier and bridge did the job. The pond had become very overgrown and the top half filled with swamp grass. Nature is very adept at reclaiming water ways if left to its own devices. It took us several years to clear out the vegetation, by hand, as we do not use chemicals, to a reasonable level and to cut down all the surrounding willow trees. We discovered a huge population of fish; roach, rudd and goldfish, plus the odd eel. Clearing sympathetically over a long period reaped its own rewards as the pond is rich in newts, toads and many types of dragon flies. Interestingly, the pond is a toad stronghold, frogs tend to spawn in the smaller ponds.
Over the next 8 years, we created more garden spaces and now have a shady woodland garden, a Thai temple garden, alpine walls, lots of herbaceous borders, and woodland walks with Camellias, Witch-hazels, some Rhododendron and azaleas. In May these areas are a joy with carpets of wild wood anemones, followed by a huge scented bluebell display and culminating in a pink/purple palette of campion and foxgloves.
We celebrated 9 years in this beautiful location on 14th February 2021, plus Freddie the miniature schnauzer's 8th birthday. As we raised a glass to Len, we celebrated our joy at finding such a unique, tranquil and utterly wonderful location.