Thursday, November 5, 2015

South Wales Day 3 - Exploring Margam Park

Margam Castle in Port Talbot, Wales by Martyn Ferry Photography

It was my last day in Wales and the weather was, yet again looking very forlorn. I fancied visiting something else other than waterfalls, but thanks to the despondent conditions a coastal jaunt was out of the question, so I decided to head up to Port Talbot and visit Margam Country Park.

Margam Park is an 850 acre country estate situated two miles east of Port Talbot on the narrow coastal plain, set on the southern slopes of Mynydd Margam, a largely forested mountain rising to a height of 349m, and one of the major ancient settlements of Glamorgan. It was once owned by the Mansel Talbot family and is now owned and administered by the local council.

A Fallow stag in the rutting season at Margam Park in Wales by Martyn Ferry Photography
One of the stags in full rutting regalia. A wildlife shot up to my usual standards, i.e. slightly out of focus.

The estate is home to an extensive population of deer, which have existed on the site since at least Norman times. The majority are fallow deer (numbering around 230); red deer (about 60) and the non-native Père David's Deer (about 30), which were introduced in the 1990's as part of a breeding programme.

Autumn ferns at Margam Park in South Wales by Martyn Ferry Photography
Part of the park is very attractive woodland, which is where most of the deer live, and where I had to have
a bit of an exploration.

It has been a place of particular religious importance throughout it’s history. The Norman Abbey, founded in the mid 12th Century was, until its dissolution at the hands of Henry VIII, a religious centre of major importance in South Wales. The remains of the Abbey are extensive, the ruined Chapter House being of exceptional architectural quality.

Gnarled tree at Margam Country Park in South Wales by Martyn Ferry Photography
I liked the look of this old tree, it seemed to be unhappy about something.

Margam Park does in fact owe its location and beginnings to the monastery, which was acquired by Sir Rice Mansel in 1540. A Tudor mansion was later built on the site of the former monastic ranges as a county residence. An 1814 estate map shows that a working park had been realised, with Great, Little and Upper Parks, and by 1830 the construction of a new manor house, to become Margam Castle, had begun.

Remains of Margam Abbey and a large autumnal tree by Martyn Ferry Photography
Part of the Abbey remains next to an autumnal tree. I couldn't get a decent shot of the Abbey proper,
as the weather was so glum.

Margam abbey was founded in 1147 as a daughter house of Clairvaux Abbey, a Cistercian monastery in Ville-sous-la-Ferté, in the Aube département in northeastern France, by Robert, Earl of Gloucester. Early Christian crosses found in the close vicinity suggest the existence of an even earlier Celtic monastic community. The nave of the abbey continued in use as the parish church, as it does to this day.

Flowers bloom in front of Margam Castle in South Wales by Martyn Ferry Photography
A side view of the impressive house, you can see the iconic octagonal
tower rising in the background.

Margam Castle is a large Victorian era country house, it was constructed over a ten-year period, from 1830 to 1840. Although called a castle, the building is really a large country house, one of many mock castles built in the 19th century during the Gothic Revival. After making a Grand Tour of Europe as a young man, Talbot returned to south Wales and from 1830 he set about redeveloping the family estate at Margam.

An outbuilding at Margam Castle is covered in ivy by Martyn Ferry Photography
One of the outbuildings draped in ivy.

interior arch at Margam Castle and staircase by Martyn Ferry Photography
A view of one of the arches that leads to the main staircase.

William Henry Fox Talbot, the British scientist, inventor and photography pioneer, who was also the cousin of Christopher Rice Mansel Talbot, was a frequent visitor to Margam, and the castle featured as an image in some of his early photographic experiments. Margam's links with photography also include being the location of the earliest known Welsh photograph, a daguerreotype of the castle taken on 9 March 1841 by the Reverend Calvert Richard Jones. 

Grand staircase at Margam Castle in South Wales by Martyn Ferry Photography
The Grand staircase under the Octagonal Tower

The castle continued to be used by the Talbot family until 1941, when it was sold to the curiously named David Evans-Bevan, who bought it but found it too large to live in. As a side note, after David Evans-Bevan, who was a baronet, died, he was succeeded by his son, the even more impressively named Martyn Evan Evans-Bevan, note the correct and proper spelling of the name Martyn.

The Octagonal Tower at Margam Castle in South Wales by Martyn Ferry Photography
Looking up to the Octagonal Tower.  

After this the castle fell into disrepair, and for many years it belonged to the local authority, but was not open to the public. In 1977, a fire caused substantial damage, and it was only after this that a restoration project began in earnest. Today Margam Castle is a Grade I listed building.

After I had tramped around the grounds and found some trees in full autumn bloom, I took a few snaps, and it was soon time to head back to old Blighty.

Tree in full autumn bloom at Margam Country Park by Martyn Ferry Photography
This vibrant beauty stood out a mile.

Vines in autumn colour at Margam Country Park in South Wales by Martyn Ferry Photography
This swathe of vine leaves were particularly impressive.

Close up photography of autumn leaves by Martyn Ferry Photography
A little collection of colourful autumn leaf shots from the above vine.

No comments:

Post a Comment