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homes&gardens: A little paradise by the coast; South-facing terraces slope down from historic castle to the sea.

Byline: Alison Young

A NTHONY Davies enjoys two great views from his garden - one looking out to sea and the other looking up at a medieval castle.

That's because Anthony is estate manager at St Donats Castle - a 60-hectare site which includes a stunning two-acre formal garden.

The steep south-facing garden was originally terraced in the later part of the 16th Century, with the basic shape remaining the same today.

"The formal gardens consist of a series of south-facing terraces which slope down to the sea," said Anthony.

"Wherever you are in the garden, the views are incredible. If you look down you can see out across the sea and on a clear day you might spy the Somerset coast.

"If you turn your head and look upwards then you are looking straight at the historic St Donats Castle."

It was 33 years ago that Anthony, fresh out of college, answered an advert which simply stated: "We want someone to look after our estate."

Since then he has never looked back, setting up the farm unit on the estate, looking after woodland and overseeing the maintenance of the formal gardens.

The terraced garden starts with two large lawn areas at the top before moving down to the Tudor garden where the Queen's beasts such as griffins are scattered around on 5ft-high plinths.

As the terraces continue down towards the sea there is the rose garden on one level and on another the blue garden, so called because of its abundance of blue flowers.

Open-air performances are often held in the blue garden. The rose garden has been replanted a number of times over the years, a task often overseen in the past by the late Fred Nutbeam, a gardener who left St Donats to work in the Queen's garden at Buckingham Palace.

"The Queen has visited the castle on a number of occasions and she would always ask after Fred. She would ask me if I had seen him lately and we would have a chat about our mutual friend," said Anthony.

As the formal gardens continue downwards you come to the pine garden and then the harp garden, so called because it resemble the shape of a harp. It is here that the students from Atlantic College, which is sited within the St Donats Castle estate, are carrying out some revamp work with estate gardeners.

"I have a small but very talented team of gardeners who work here.

"I don't claim to be an expert but many of them are very talented amateurs."

Despite claims of being an estate manager rather than a gardener, Anthony's one main piece of advice for everyone is to garden according to scale.

"Whatever you are planning to do in your garden, ensure that it will fit and look right and whatever you do don't plant in straight lines.

"Plants don't grow in straight lines so you need to re-create how they would grow naturally when you are planting them.

"Put some curvy lines into your garden and think about shape and colour."

The gardens are often used for events at St Donats Art Centre, but also open every summer under the National Garden Scheme and during the August bank holiday weekend.

Garden quote

"A man of words and not of deeds is like a garden full of weeds."

CAPTION(S):

WHAT A VIEW Standing in the gardens, one can look up to St Donats Castle or down to the sea. Below, estate manager Anthony Davies and St Donats Arts Centre. PICTURES: Mark Fraser Y; HISTORIC The castle and its gardens are packed with interesting features and architectural curiosities.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Mar 15, 2008
Words:605
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