A garden in the woods
The cottage looks out onto a large, low walled garden and, surrounded by trees, it provides a uniquely sheltered and private clearing in the woods.
The wildlife garden has been planned to be in keeping with the surrounding woodland whilst being of interest for as much of the year as possible. It contains established fruit trees (Welsh damsons, apples and hazels) and has been extensively planted with both the native Welsh ‘Tenby’ and the British wild daffodil as well as new groups of snowdrops, species crocuses and snakeshead fritillaries. The summer sees curving paths cut into the lush grass to allow native plants to flower and set seed and you will find cowslips, primroses, lady’s smock and meadow buttercups, ferns, foxgloves and meadowsweet in the centre of the garden. We’re also reliably informed that there are over 50 species of lichen in and around the garden!
Closer to the house, you are welcome to help yourself to herbs planted in the walls and a big zinc bath, whilst the flowerbeds at the front of the cottage are full of pink roses, hardy geraniums and daisies in the summer months – you’ll probably find them in your bedroom, too!
An amazing variety of wildlife is attracted to the Pentop garden. Dozens of species of birds visit the feeder visible from the sitting room. Recent guests counted 28 different species including woodpeckers, nuthatches, finches and five different species of tits (including a pair of blue-tits who nest in a tiny hole in the wall by the cottage front door each summer). Common lizards and slow-worms are regularly seen in warm weather whilst the wild flowers attract butterflies and other insects in abundance. Stay out at night and you may be lucky enough to see badgers on the banks surrounding the cottage whilst bats dart overhead.
In the courtyard to the rear of the cottage we have created an outside room for guests full of all the maps and guidebooks you’ll need to explore the local area. There is an armchair, a rack for drying outdoor clothes, a space to store boots, outdoor wear and bikes (as well as a ground anchor) and an electric heater to ensure that everything dries overnight. A small box of tools, workshop stand and track pump is supplied for running bike repairs.
Pentop is in the Snowdonia Dark Skies Reserve – one of only ten locations in the world awarded this status by the International Dark Sky Association. Along with areas in New Zealand, Quebec, Namibia and Ireland, Snowdonia has outstanding quality of night air and real efforts are made to minimise light pollution. In the forest and high above even the bright lights (!) of the village of Penmachno, being out in the dark night sky at Pentop is a magical experience – looking up at the countless stars reminds us of our place in the universe.
There is a firedish beside the bench at the far side of the garden – warm yourself beside it when the sky is full of stars and toast marshmallows as you listen to the secret sounds of the night.
The slate-roofed log store next to the cottage contains logs for use in the wood-burning stove or on the fire dish and kindling to get you started. This is also where you will find deck chairs and a rug for lazy summer afternoons and a lantern for magical evenings outdoors.
Beyond the wall…
The garden forms a clearing in the forest – and is surrounded by mixed woodland and pine and larch plantations. Whilst the leaves filter the light of the summer months, the larches lose their leaves in the winter and the garden opens up to the weak winter sun. Springtime sees the woods carpeted with the misty haze of native bluebells and the forest tracks are lined with foxgloves in the summer.
You can walk or cycle from the the back door along tracks and footpaths that run for miles through the forest – and dogs love them! Be aware, however, that Gwydir is a working forest and you may occasionally see woodsmen at work.