How did Your Royal Highness first discover Llwynywermod?
'After a long search lasting some 40 years! Several houses and sites were explored until, finally, we came across Llwynywermod in an exceptionally beautiful part of Carmarthenshire, on the edge of the Brecon Beacons and within reasonable reach of Cardiff. Llwynywermod was originally part of an old estate with the ruins of the old house, the remnants of an 18th century landscaped park and various disintegrating ‘concrete and corrugated iron’ modern farm buildings and an abandoned slurry pit. All this required a lot of re-ordering and restoration. I was determined that as many local and Duchy of Cornwall natural materials as possible could be used in the rebuilding and restoration process and that the house should be a showcase for traditional Welsh craftsmanship, textiles and woodwork, so as to draw attention to the high quality small enterprises, woollen mills, quilt-makers, joiners, stonemasons and metal-workers situated in rural parts of Wales.'
How does the garden at Llwynywermod compare with your famously beautiful gardens at Highgrove?
'I couldn’t possibly create another Highgrove garden in Wales and so the obvious thing to do was to make a courtyard garden at Llwynywermod, with a fountain in the centre, to provide that all important sound of running water, clipped ilex trees to give height, structure and cover for small birds and box bordered beds. I planted climbing plants up the walls such as Albertine roses, magnolia grandiflora, jasmine, honeysuckle and Boston ivy and let all sorts of plants seed themselves in the battered cobblestones outside the old barn which forms one side of the courtyard. Trees have been planted in the old parkland to bring it back to life and two small wildflower meadows to the front and side of the house, the latter containing an apple orchard. I can only hope I shall live long enough to see some of the trees reach a reasonable size!'
How important is it for you to have a retreat in Wales?
'Very important! Having been Prince of Wales for 55 years, it enables me, on various occasions, to be part of the local community around Llandovery and to have a base for entertaining and meeting people from throughout the country. Wales has still preserved its wonderful sense of community, particularly in the rural areas and Llandovery, an old sheep drovers’ town, somehow maintains those priceless assets of its own community hospital, family GPs, a rugby club (of which I am proud to be Patron), a railway station and a strong connection with the family farming communities in the surrounding countryside. '
HRH The Prince of Wales
Some may say this is old-fashioned, but to me it is timeless; the bedrock of our humanity in a profound relationship with nature and the very heart of Wales’ cultural, social and spiritual heritage."
Which are your other favourite Welsh gardens?
'I would have to say that Powis Castle and Bodnant are two of my favourite gardens – but, sadly, I have not been able to see round so many others throughout Wales. Powis Castle has the dramatic advantage of steep terraces descending below the castle itself, each terrace displaying the most magnificent borders and all set in stunning, ancient parkland. Bodnant is equally dramatic, but in a different way. It is a plantsman’s garden; beautifully laid out throughout a sheltered valley and containing magnificent great trees and under-planted with choice specimens of trees, shrubs and rhododendrons from China and the Himalayas, all growing in the kind of soil and conditions all gardeners would give their eye teeth for! The views from the house, of mountainous countryside in the distance, makes Bodnant one of Wales’s national treasures.'
Which are your favourite landscapes in Wales?
'What a difficult question! Wales is blessed with a series of landscapes which are uniquely precious, many of which are the result of man working in harmony with nature for thousands of years. This, of course, is one of the reasons I so love the rolling landscape of Carmarthenshire, around Llwynywermod, or the wild, unspoilt, patchworked countryside of Radnorshire, or the ancient, mysteriously mossy, oak filled valleys of what used to be called Cardiganshire when I was at Aberystwyth University in 1969, but is now known as Ceredigion. Of course, the most rugged and grandly picturesque has to be Snowdonia, battered and drenched by constant Atlantic storms, crowded with rocky mountain tops and a mecca for artists and energetic climbers.'
What are your fondest memories of times spent here?
'Memorable times spent exploring mid-Wales during my term at Aberystwyth University and learning something about Wales and its ancient language, folklore, myths and history.'
As a watercolourist, what are your favourite places to paint in Wales?
'The whole of Wales is a painter’s dream! As you travel around the country there are paintable views around every corner, so often illuminated by the western light with its contrasting fingers of lengthening shadows. In my case, there is never enough time to stop and paint, so I am permanently frustrated!'
What part does Wales’ unique environment play in its attraction?
'I would have thought the uniquely attractive and enduring landscape of Wales, with its mountains, patchworked fields and woods; its coastline, castles, villages and market towns, plays a vital role in attracting visitors – it certainly cast its spell on me a long time ago…'