Appeals: Plas tan y Bwlch ('The House on a Hill') and gardens

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The Independent Online
Plas tan y Bwlch ('The House on a Hill') and its gardens at Maentwrog, Blaenau Ffestiniog, in Gwynedd, shown in a photograph taken early this century. The gardens, now overgrown, are situated in - and owned by - the Snowdonia National Park; they were laid out last century by the Oakeley family, rich local slate- quarry owners. The Plas Tan Y Bwlch Gardens Trust, founded earlier this year to restore the 12-acre garden, is appealing for pounds 250,000. So far pounds 39,000 has been raised.

Surrounded by native oak woodland and overlooking the Maentwrog Valley, the gardens are crossed by the Ffestiniog Railway. The trust hopes to organise a joint ticket with the railway so that visitors can ride up the valley in the train and then walk through the garden's woodland area. The gardens can be visited between April and October. Forming stepped terraces down the hillside from the house, they offer nearly two miles of walks with arbours and viewing platforms, which need new seats and iron railings.

Exotic rare trees include a Cedrus deodara, or Eastern Hemlock; a Davidia, or Chinese Handkerchief Tree, which produces flowers shaped like white, drooping handkerchiefs in May; and Abies homolepis, a Nikko Fir. There are many species of fern including those of the genus Dryopteris, or Buckler Fern: the damp climate and rock outcrops are ideal for ferns, and a new fern area is being planted. The acid soil suits a wide range of azaleas and provides the right conditions for what is thought to be the largest example of Rhododendron campanulatum to be growing in the British Isles.

The garden attracts rare orange-plumed Firecrests and also Wood Warblers; at night, the Lesser Horseshoe and Pipistrelle bats can be spotted. The conservation project includes building a Japanese garden with a pagoda and extending the range of plants so that the flowering season lasts longer - at the moment most flower in May.

For further information, contact: Plas Tan y Bwlch Gardens Trust, Maentwrog, Blaenau Ffestiniog, Gwynedd LL41 3YU, telephone 0766 85324.

(Photograph omitted)