I’ve been asked for more information about Plas Cadnant, the magical garden on a hill just outside Menai Bridge. It was originally laid out by someone called John Price in the early nineteenth century (he was Sheriff in 1818). The head gardener, Thomas Williams, went on to work for the Earl of Crawford and Balcarres and bequeathed his plant collection to Southport Botanic Society. In 1996, it was bought by Anthony Tavernor, a Cheshire farmer who is clearly passionate about plants and resurrected the old Walled Garden and hidden valley. We came back in the sun:-
No visit to Anglesey is complete without a trip to see Merfyn and Trish Jones who run the nicest antique shop in the world on Beaumaris High Street. He’s got another shop two doors down which is not open to the passing visitor, full of rural Welsh crafts, including the slate ornaments made when the slate workers were on strike:-
We went on our annual visit to Penmon to see the lighthouse and eat a bacon bap at the Pilot Café. We stopped at St. Seiriol to admire the Romanesque church first established by King Einion in the early sixth century and re-established as an Augustinian Priory in the 1220s. It’s satisfyingly simple, on the edge of the Straits, with the Prior’s House still occupied, but not by a Prior, next door:-
I realise that I haven’t done justice to my memories of Owen Chadwick. I first met him as a child when he and his three brothers rented a prep school on the banks of Lake Windermere: Sir John, the ambassador; Henry, the theologian; and Martin, the high church priest. I encountered him over the Weetabix. At Cambridge, I remember meeting him in Bowes and Bowes, where he was doing some research to answer a letter of bibliographical enquiry, and in the Rare Books Room of the University Library, where he would work in the mornings. I find it hard even now to work out whether he was worldly – he after all held innumerable worldly positions, including Presidency of the British Academy and Chancellor of the University of East Anglia – or deeply and admirably unworldly – an attempt to get Alfred Hitchcock an honorary degree was scotched by Owen who apparently didn’t know who Alfred Hitchcock was.
The church at Llanbeulan is, like Tal-y-llyn, looked after by the the Friends of Friendless Churches. Like Tal-y-llyn, it’s remote, reached by a track across fields, although the illusion of rurality is broken by the proximity of pylons:-
I discovered the church of St. Mary, Tal-y-llin in the Shell Guide’s entry for Aberffraw. It’s actually on a deserted road about three miles north- north-east of Aberffraw unmarked by the Ordnance Survey. It’s a magical place, looked after by the Friends of Friendless Churches and miraculously open, not just to visitors, but to the fields. Empty of any paraphernalia except a deep and rural piety:-
We went to see a film version of The Rape of Lucretia in the Clwyd Theatr far on the outskirts of Mold. It was slightly surreal watching Fiona Shaw’s wonderful production of Benjamin Britten’s opera about the battle between the Romans and Etruscans in a 1960s municipal cinema where people were having a picnic outside as if it was Glyndebourne itself.
Wonder of wonders. A ring road takes traffic round Ruthin so one misses the town centre, one of the best preserved small market towns in the British Isles, with more surviving medieval town houses than I have seen close together anywhere and a still surviving medieval town plan, with views down the streets of the countryside.
This is the amazing Town Hall designed by Poundley and Walker (the Companion Guide says ‘who else ?’ as if one should easily recognise their work):-
Ruthin Craft Centre is in a curious place: not in the centre of the small market town, but in an industrial park on the outskirts. No matter. It shows crafts of the highest quality, better than Collect, with an exhibition of Welsh crafts which we missed at Collect and a very priginal, beautiful exhibition of jewellery in non-precious metals by makers from all over the world, mainly Scandinavia and Japan.
This is a view of the courtyard:-
We particularly liked the work of Eunmi Chun, a Korean based in Munich, who makes work from intestines:-
I would like to say that I enjoyed the Mostyn Art Gallery, but I didn’t. I have always regarded it as small, but perfectly formed, one of the nicest of the small regional galleries, with beautiful top-lit galleries and an admirable programme of exhibitions. Lottery funding has enlarged it and given it an odd, pseudo-Liebeskind entrance space, all diagonal lines and out of sympathy with the original, with a pyramid on the roof. But at least I liked the fine terracotta façade and it’s sculptural detailing:-