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Nant y Bedd Garden, Brecon Beacons

The pottage at Nant y Bedd garden

I love most gardens. My favourite thing to do is to wander around other people's gardens, there is always something to learn, to see anew, notes to take, ideas to squirrel away.

Sometimes though a garden is more than that, more than somewhere to observe and move through - it is a garden of feelings, of emotion, or becoming part somehow. For me that is what happened at Nant y Bedd garden.

Nant y Bedd is a garden of ten acres in the Brecon Beacons. It has been made on a steeply wooded slope which meanders down to a river. It has been gradually created by Sue Mabberley over the past forty years, helped by her husband Ian in more recent years.

The house - originally a forestry house - is near the top of the plot, surrounded, indeed in parts submerged, by luxuriant planting, there is a food forest, a potager and walks down through the conifer forest to the stream.

What Sue has created is something magical - as though from a fairy tale (though it may have helped that our tour guide was a very beautiful and bossy cat).

The garden at Nant y Bedd is a place of light and shadow, surprise vistas, soft mossy spaces - all laid out by a masterful eye.

And yet there is no imposing, no ego - plants are treated with evident love and respect, allowed their own form, their space - a choice of where to be. The potager has teasels amongst the beans, a wonderful array of allium Chistophii seed heads shared a metal trough with garlic, it is a garden of tolerance.

It was a garden that really moved me and encouraged me that gardening could be so caring somehow. I could have stayed chatting to Sue all afternoon but she was getting ready for a visit from the Gardener's World filming team. Nant y Bedd will be on tomorrow's programme. I shall be watching excitedly with my gin and crisps.

I have put a selection of the photos I took in a gallery - click on the photo to have a look at them.

click here for photos

I did also take lots of notes and photos of Ian's beautiful woodwork - from simple stick gates to a magnificent treehouse - and am dropping heavy hints.

Comments: 4 (Add)

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Vanessa Dennett on October 8 2021 at 09:03

Beautiful, beautiful photos Jane! I’m longing to visit this garden, I tried to find somewhere to stay in Abergavenny last weekend but (as always) had left it too late. I’ll get there sooner or later but meanwhile your photos give me hope of what I’ll create here in due course….. xx

SnapdragonJane on October 8 2021 at 12:17

In reply to Vanessa Dennett
I would really recommend staying at Allt y Bela near Usk if you get a chance - a proper treat, the house is so beautifully restored and you get to pretend the gardens are yours for a while - they do B&B via Sawdays. Then Nant y Bedd isn't that far. Though it is now shut till Spring.

Carol Wilson on October 8 2021 at 16:34

Magical describes it well.

Corrie Fairlie on October 9 2021 at 18:40

Thank you for the beautiful images Jane. On seeing the 'stick' fence it reminds me of the practice here in the Charente, France of using rough, raw and untreated wood as posts to fence the fields. The result presents a more natural look on the landscape.

Snapdragon social

Every year the sudden sink in light catches me by surprise. ⁠⁠
Usually I first see it when I fail to take a photo. When I can't get my camera to capture what I want. When all the advances I've made in my photography get swamped by not knowing what to do to make a difference to something so ethereal.⁠⁠
Yesterday - taking a photo of the Studio windowsill with its seed heads and berries - I hit a problem of grain.  All my images looked dull, in focus but somehow lacking light.  I randomly changed camera settings and lost half the morning peering at a screen foolishly trying to edit light back in.⁠⁠
In the end I messaged my friend Rebecca @poshyarns - whose photos capture light in the most beautiful way. She called me back and talked me through, and even gave me the confidence to ditch my tripod. ⁠⁠
And suddenly the light came back into my photos and the murk was gone. ⁠⁠
If Rebecca ever decides to teach I will be right at the head of the queue.⁠
#howihueit #simpleandstill #capturequiet #beautyyouseek #calm_collected #aseasonalway #aseasonalshift #cornersofmyworld #slowlived #slowandsimpledays #quietchaotics #ihaveathingwithwindows #ofsimplethings #beautyinsimplicity #floralstories #allthingsbotanical #underthefloralspell #slowfloralstyle #petalsandprops #nestandflourish #livethelittlethings #thehappynow #ihavethisthingwithflowers #moodforfloral #cornersofmyhome #aseasonalway #slowlivingforlife #aflowerfilledlife
Kat @katgoldin took this photo of me a few weeks ago on a photoshoot that consisted of her telling me to 'just do the things you do and ignore me'.⁠⁠
Despite having been friends for ages, she had never seen me embroider - the buzz and shimmy of the needle on fabric. ⁠⁠
Sometimes seeing things through other people's eyes helps you see them anew yourself. Kat's joy in the emerging lines helped me see that what I've created here in the studio is a very special and precious thing.⁠⁠
The doors to the Studio Club - which is basically a seasonal exploration of all that goes on here - open again in a few weeks time.  You can sign up to get a personal invite via my profile. ⁠⁠
You can see how good I am at 'ignoring' - my face is quite clearly mid laughter.⁠⁠
This is perhaps a bit of a downbeat photo for my 1000th post. messy faded daisies in the Studio Meadow.⁠⁠
But I think it pretty much sums up what I hold dear - imperfect, natural, wild.⁠⁠
Today my elder daughter graduates from drama school (a year late), in two days time my younger daughter turns twenty one. ⁠⁠
A weekend of reflection, celebration and joy lies ahead.
The last of the dahlias. They are declining with the light. ⁠⁠
Though you can't see in the photo the doubles all have that mucky chicken bum at the back and the singles have dropped their petals.⁠⁠
The best things in the garden at the moment are the sanguisorbas - bought from @quirkybirdgardener in the summer - and settling in so well that one is now as tall as me.⁠⁠
They've always been one of my favourite cut flowers - these white ones remind me a little of of lambs tails.
After an incredibly inspiring couple of weeks. ⁠
We ended up our holiday at Camp Goodlife @thegoodlifesoc - where it seemed that every single person we spoke to was making a positive change in the world. From creating new ways of running restaurants to connecting people to the land to making beautiful clothes to teaching children about growing food. 
And for everyone, these changes were centred around joy. ⁠
I loved our trip but I’m so excited about getting back into the Studio this morning. 

📷 @katgoldin
Thistledown is so beguiling. ⁠
The soft cream catching the light, waiting for goldfinches to alight. ⁠
I’m heading to Hawarden today to join the lively people at @thegoodlifesoc and teach about foraged colour and dyeing socks with all kinds of plants. I’m hoping to be able to harvest some thistles as they give a particularly beautiful mustardy yellow.
Though I grew lots and lots of straw flowers for Christmas wreaths back when I had a proper commercial flower business,  it was only this year that I slowed down enough to really see them. ⁠
I’d assumed that they wouldn’t be good for insects until fully out - flat dulled daisies, past the point of picking - but actually wasps seem to pollinate them when they are still tightly furled. ⁠
This patch was wasp central for weeks. ⁠
A few butterflies flitted about, but mainly wasps⁠
I am somebody who needs distance to see a bigger picture. ⁠
For the past couple of months I’ve been really struggling with where Snapdragon Life is, and how to get from here to where I want it to be. ⁠
I filled books and books with notes but was going round in circles - unable to commit to anything with the kind of conviction a small business needs. It was all too fuzzy somehow. ⁠
Now I am away from the Studio. ⁠
Right in the middle of two weeks of walking and eating and photographing gardens and meeting friends and suddenly it is all much clearer. ⁠
I now have 5 sentences written in my phone notes and a high clear soaring route to take. ⁠
The multi talented @katgoldin took this photo of me in the Studio before I left - part of a photo shoot that took almost three years to actually schedule because I will do almost anything to avoid being in front of a camera.

About Snapdragon Life

At Snapdragon Life I gently guide you through bringing the changing seasons into your daily life, helping you slow down, so that you can experience increased well being, calm and creativity.


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