Dinefwr near Llandeilo; travel the M4 then up the A463. Well something like that. Dinefwr has a rich heritage. Newton House sits in the designed 18th century landscape, influenced by Capability Brown, overlooking a park which has a herd of White Park Cattle grazing upon it. The whole area is steeped in history. Within the park are an Iron Age Fort, two Roman Forts, a medieval castle, two medieval towns, an 18th century farm and a 17th century mansion. My husband and I took a guided tour of the house, including the ascent to the roof and areas little seen by the public. The view from the roof was magnificent: the park displayed below in all its glory. We took a delicious lunch in the tea-rooms and then a walk in the park.
There are a number of trails to walk but we decided to take the Dragonfly Walk. From the house we passed the White Park Cattle in the fields and then walked through the car park and down the path towards the castle, which can be seen towering above on the hill. There was one enormous bull with his harem and calves, one of which amazingly was pure black. These White Park Cattle were mentioned in the laws of Hywel Dda over a thousand years ago. Yew trees, Sycamores, Oaks and Horse Chestnuts, all bearing fruits or berries, lined the route. A magnificent gnarled old Cherry tree with bare branches and a huge hole formed by removing a large branch, is surrounded by Rosebay Willowherb, it create an imposing sight.
There were notice boards along the way telling stories of the area. The first we encountered was the Princes of Deheubarth, this is an area in south west Wales. It mentioned Hywel Dda and his Welsh laws and also Rhys ap Gruffydd, one of the last great princes of Deheubarth.
Thistles, Hogweed and Clover straddled the path until a stone wall separated us from the deer park area, where bracken was growing profusely. The deer park is accessed by a black iron gate. All along the wall plants were sprouting: Yarrow, Polypoidy ferns (Polypodium vulgare), Maidenhair Spleenworts (Asplenium trichomas), Springy Turf-moss (Rhytidiadelphus squarrosus), Ribwort Plantain, Ivy-leaved Toadflax (Cymbalaria muralis and Smooth Hawk’s-beard (Crepis capillaris).
On our right was the Pigeon House; pigeon was a good source of meat in the 19th century. The building appears on a Tithe Map of 1839.To the left is the old gamekeepers’ cottage “Mynachdy”. At the bottom of the hill is the 18th century slaughterhouse; a small coffee shop, Castle Walk Cafe, is now housed there. The second notice tells of the Lords of the Southern March. These were the invading Normans who were given the right to collect taxes and build castles by the Norman Kings. These Marcher Lords frequently fought the Welsh Princes. The next notice tells of the Church and the princes. Welsh culture and scholarship always went hand in hand with the churches and monasteries, both Cistercian and Premonstratensian orders are mentioned.
Following the post indicating the Dragonfly walk, the next gate in the wall leads to the boardwalk where Oak, Alder and Willow are the most prominent trees, together with the rapacious Rhododendrons. This boardwalk meanders over a steam and past some remains of the original deer park wall, which is covered in mosses, lichen and ferns: Common Pocket-moss (Fissidens taxifolius), Common Tamarisk-moss (Thuidium tamariscinum), Lecanoraceae Lichen and Hart’s-tongue (Asplenium scolopendrium). Glimpses of the deer park and the Fallow deer can be seen through the trees. Beside the boardwalk sedges, reeds, Water-cress, Cow Parsley, Foxgloves and Flag Irises, all past their best, are growing amongst the moss covered twisted stumps of trees. A Song Thrush is poking around the tree trunks and a juvenile Robin is perched upon an old branch.
The trees thin out and the Mill Pond can be seen shining in the sunshine. The boardwalk takes you around the pond where a variety of plants are growing both in the water and on the margins: Bulrushes, Water Mint, Flag Irises, Bittersweet, Burnet-saxifrage, Bur-reed (Sparanium erectum), Water-plantain (Alisma plantago-aquatica), Bog Pondweed (Potamogeton polygonifolius) and Canadian Pondweed (Elodea canadensis). Blue Damsel flies are skimming over the water and landing on plants and wooden rails around the pond. Water Boatmen (Corixidae) are skimming over the pond.
The Pump House is located on the other side of the pond and below the mill pond dam. This was at the centre of the Victorian water system that supplied the house and grounds. It is isolated under the tree canopy and surrounded by Giant Hogweed. Disregarding the path down to the Pump House, we climb an incline which supports a wide selection of trees, Rosebay Willowherb, Nettles, Brambles and Enchanter’s-nightshade (Circaea lutetiana). At the top is a gate leading to a meadow enclosed by more trees and to the right on top of the hill is the castle ruins. The path runs along the bottom of the meadow but you can access the castle by climbing the hill.
The field is littered with dry grasses and seed heads of all kinds: Red Campion, Herb Bennet, Creeping buttercup, Clover, Yellow Rattle and Creeping thistle. Among them are flowers of Silverweed, Self-heal, Bird’s-foot Trefoil and Cat’s-ears. The whole place is alive with the sounds and sight of insects: crickets, Meadow brown and Gatekeeper butterflies, Soldier Beetles (Rhagonycha fulva) and Chaser dragonflies (Libellula depressa).
Another notice board is strategically placed in the corner of the field, this one with information about the Castles of Deheubarth, which changed hands many times between the princes of Deheubarth and the Marcher Lords. From here it is uphill following the dragonfly posts and retracing our steps past the stone deer park wall and the Castle Walk Cafe to return to the car park.
A National Trust property in partnership with the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales and Cadw.