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Caerwent, Caldicot, Caldicot NP26 5AH, UK – 01291 431020
We loved this place! So unexpected! I can't think of any other gardens in the UK anything like it! It's been delightfully and sensitively restored. Not a hint of commercialism but you can get a tasty snack at the small cafe.
I moved to Chepstow several years ago and for the first 3 years here, I didn't even know this subterranean garden existed. I first heard of it in a documentary on TV. I visited the garden first chance I had after hearing of its existence. The place is stunningly beautiful! For plant-lovers there is a collection of exotic plants that you probably wouldn't see anywhere else in the UK (except maybe Kew Gardens in London). I know almost nothing about plants myself, but I can appreciate the beauty they instill in this most unusual of settings. The grotto or underground garden was set up by a Victorian (I think) naturalist/explorer. He populated it with plants that he encountered on his extensive travels, particularly with plants that thrive in moist, low-light level conditions. The grotto fell into disrepair some time ago, and was eventually filled-in with loose earth and soil, and thus it was finally forgotten. As luck would have it, some recent owners of the house & gardens accidentally rediscovered the grotto during some grand-scale gardening work. They excavated what they first thought was a small cave, but it just kept on going. Once aware of what they had discovered, the owners looked into the historical records and found reference to the original garden. We owe this person (or these people) a debt of gratitude, firstly for their decision to rebuild the grotto and secondly, for their vision. They were able to envision what could become of a hole they had found in their garden. It is truly a work of wonder, not to be missed! If you visit it at a quiet time (off-peak) it is like entering a magical realm, or an alien environment. The unusual plant species enhance this effect, lending the place a sense of strangeness and beauty. In some of the lusher areas, you can imagine that you are standing deep in the undergrowth of a rain-forest. The first of the photos below is very recent (I know this because it's the only one of the three that I took myself)
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