06 March 2020

Elm Grove is located in 20 acres of gardens, lawns and fields - with a large number of trees and shrubs, all excellent habitat for birds and wildlife of all types. There are lots of flowers around but it's not a very manicured garden: apart from the tennis court and croquet lawn we tend to allow nature a pretty free hand: the result is lots of wildlife and birds. Guests may catch sight of a resident badger family and a pair of foxes which come out to eat at night and wander through our grounds. There are also rabbits & squirrels in the grounds which can be seen from time to time. Our cat Marmaduke is also interested in these but he's not as young as he used to be.

Elm Grove's grounds are particularly good for birds. Last year a group of keen bird watchers spotted 22 species of birds here grounds, including a great spotted woodpecker family who live in our old sweet chestnut tree. Many of our rooms look out directly onto the lawn and guests can see the birds from the comfort of their bedrooms. For a closer view there are many areas around the grounds with garden furniture so you can get a closer view of the comings and goings of our feathered friends.

Wider Pembrokeshire of course has fantastic wildlife all round. There are also excellent opportunities to see sea birds on the islands around the coast including Skomer, Skokholm & Ramsey. These have large number of Puffins, Manx Shearwaters, Razorbills, Gannets and Fulmars. Grassholm is home to Europe's largest gannetry, with 5,000 birds crammed onto a tiny grassy island. The sound is unforgettable.

As well as wonderful varieties of birds, Pembrokeshire is also home to a huge range of wildlife. Head to Bosheston or Stackpole to see dolphins, and harbour porpoises. Check the waters around Dale, Marloes and Skomer for Atlantic grey seals.

But back to gardens. Quite apart from Elm Grove's own there are a number of great gardens in West Wales - and we try to make visiting them easy. One is Colby Woodland Garden at Amroth. This is a property first landscaped and planted the 1870s by a pharmacist inspired by the fashion for wonderful vistas prevalent in those days. In the 1970's it was taken over by the National Trust, who continued to maintain the woodland, with its ponds and plants. Rhododendrons abound, the woodlands house the UK's tallest Japanese redwood tree (134 ft) and there are otters. There are industrial reminders, with mine entrances and a mine track, and a summer house with wonderful views across Camarthen Bay.

 

Picton Castle and Gardens is half an hour away by car, and Elm Grove have a season pass which guests are welcome to borrow if it's not being used. This has forty acres of beautiful woodland gardens surrounding a magnificent stately home. There's a Grade II Listed walled garden, an owl garden housing 26 species and two wonderful art galleries showing changing exhibitions by local artists.

Upton Castle Gardens is something of a hidden gem. The 13th century castle itself is privately owned and not open to visitors but the 35 acres of listed historic gardens are. There's a medieval chapel that once featured on television's Time Team, medieval fish ponds and walks down to the tidal estuary of the River Cleddau.

And if you don't mind a bit of a drive, Elm Grove have buy one get one free vouchers for the National Botanic Gardens of Wales at Carmarthen, 40 minutes away by car. This has an ever-changing programme of events, but constant themed gardens include the British Bird of Prey Center, a tropical Butterfly House and a national nature reserve, all set in a magnificent Regency Landscape of lakes, cascades, waterfalls and weirs created more than 200 years ago. When originally built this was amongst the finest late 18th century waterparks in Britain.

There's no doubt about it. If you're staying at Elm Grove Country House you're not going to be short of gardens to visit.

Jane Rees-Baynes, Elm Grove Country House

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