Monday, 22 April 2013

Estate's rich history

Below is my “Big Day Out” column from the Saturday, April 20, 2013, Swansea edition of the South Wales Evening Post.
 



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Estate's rich history 
A big day out! 
RICHARD THOMAS heads to Margam Country Park. 
WHY? Steeped in history, wildlife and natural beauty, there’s something for everyone inside the park. Located in Port Talbot, along the eastern rim of Swansea Bay, the 850 acre estate boasts a magnificent 18th century orangery, picturesque Tudor-Gothic style Victorian mansion house, a 12th century chapter house, ornamental gardens and one of the best deer herds in Wales. Children will enjoy the narrow gauge railway, adventure playground, farm trail and Fairytale Land. Borrow an mp3 player free of charge from the kiosk and you’ll be able to eavesdrop on voices from the past when you visit eight different spots inside the park. Written by David Hughes and recorded by local actors, these echoes from the past offer a fascinating insight into the lives of people who have worked, visited or lived on the estate over the centuries.
WHAT’S THE BUZZ? Next month Margam is set for a £2 million restoration of park's historic features. Historical core improvements will be carried out to the Broadwalk, Castle and Orangery terraces, the Temple of Four Seasons, the Ivy Cottage, the Japanese Garden, the ha-ha and water features. The park’s Citrus House has already been restored at a cost of £900,000 where visitors can get a taste of what to expect.
ANY HISTORY? The Citrus House was built around 1800 to replace earlier greenhouses on the estate. The building was originally referred to as the “Orange Wall” rather than the Citrus House. In 2007 the glasshouse fell into disrepair and deemed too dangerous for public access. With the help of a grant from The Rural Development Plan the Citrus House has now been painstakingly restored to its former glory.
LOOK OUT FOR? The 44.5m long Citrus House. The fabulous glass building is climatically controlled with state of the art equipment to enable a variety of common and rare citrus plants to grow.
FUN FACT? Working in this warm atmosphere, it is easy to imagine that the gardeners who worked in the Citric House in the 1800’s had a relatively comfortable time, especially during the winter months. Unfortunately, the arsenic and other chemical sprays the Victorians used to kill the unwanted insect life in their glasshouses meant that the lives of these gardeners were also short.
WHAT TO TAKE? Entry to the park is free but there is a charge for parking and some of the activities inside. Parking charges are £4 for cars, £6.90 for minibuses, and £13.70 for coaches. Bring a camera with you to take some snaps.
WHEN TO GO? Margam Park is open most days between 10am to 6pm.
TELL ME MORE: Throughout the year the park hosts various events from Living History Weekends to clown festivals and charity walks. Go to www.margamcountrypark.co.uk and phone 01639 881635. For sat-nav users the address and postcode is: Margam Country Park, Margam, Port Talbot, SA13 2TJ.
Visit www.richardthomas.com.

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