Picton Castle and Gardens

Autumn at Picton

Many changes are afoot at Picton Castle Gardens this season. On 30th September we waved farewell to our Director Dai Evans. Dai has been Director for over 10 years and has a rich knowledge of Picton, its history, architecture, antiquities and significant art collection. Picton really won’t be the same without him, his humour and booming laugh will be sadly missed.  Chairman of the Picton Castle Trust, David Ellis said “Dai’s retirement ends a long chapter in the recent story of Picton. He took up the reins of Trust Director over ten years ago, back in the days when visitor numbers were barely 15,000 a year. As he leaves, the numbers have almost tripled. Having been with the Trust through many exciting developments and changes, it is fair to say that all the new attractions that we offer our loyal visitors and friends has significantly improved: holiday lodges, an owl garden and zoo, a refreshed Walled Garden, the new Garden Courtyard and Glass House all have emerged during Dai’s time with us. As a personality, Dai has been a distinctive asset to the Trust, deeply knowledgeable of the Castle’s unique Collections and, equally important, always cheerful and good fun. He will be greatly missed!”
Rhiannon Talbot-English, who has been working as Assistant Director, will be taking over the reins. It is truly the end of an era and we wish Dai all the best in his retirement.

Ask anyone who works at Picton which is their favourite season and they will probably say autumn. After the extremely busy summer months we all look forward to the quieter days that autumn brings. The gardens look spectacular at this time of year, with hundreds of flowers still in bloom, grasses looking their best and our beautiful trees changing to every autumnal colour you can imagine. The gardens really do provide the perfect day out in autumn for all the family. This is why we are so excited for our ‘Family Halloween’ event that will be taking place during half term week (23rd October – 31st October). The event will be a little different to previous years with all activities taking place outside. An activity bag will be handed to every child on arrival with a garden trail, puzzles, colouring, crafts and prize. The gardens will be decorated throughout, including inside our famous maze and there will be pumpkins galore. The Welsh Owl Garden & Zoo will be holding flying displays and handling sessions throughout the day, including with their creepiest of crawlies. The gardens will offer the most amazing backdrop for Halloween photo opportunities so we will be holding a photo competition on social media. We will be looking out for the most imaginative spooky costumes so please tag us!

If you need some help fine tuning your photographic skills for our social media competition then on Saturday 23rd October professional photographer and friend of Picton Castle Gardens, Belinda Bean, will be running one of her popular wildlife photography courses. If you have an interest in wildlife photography, or would just like to learn more about how to use your camera to its full potential then this is the course for you! The course begins at 11am in the courtyard gallery, with refreshments, and then relocates to The Welsh Owl Garden & Zoo, where you will be given the chance to photograph some of the magnificent species of birds and other animals that live there. The photos above were taken on the last course and look as though they could feature in the National Geographic! Call the office on 01437 751 326 to book.

This month an absolutely unique and stunning exhibition based on the theme of Halloween and Welsh Fables is in our Courtyard Gallery. Renowned illustrator Brett Breckon’s original pieces are on display along the main wall with limited signed prints also available to purchase. His work is truly captivating and is a must see for any fan of myth, legend and Welsh history. Two of Brett’s books, Secret Tales from Wales and Dragon Days – Stories and Poems are also available to buy in the gift shop, the perfect purchase for Halloween.  Also exhibiting are Mhairi Treharne and Ilona David. Mhairi’s work is entirely unique in style; she mills surfaces such as wood, threads in wire materials and incorporates foraged elements into her work. Treharne is inspired by the desolate landscapes of rural Canada, where she was born and brought up and also draws inspiration from her heritage in Pembrokeshire and Dunbartonshire; where the landscapes are rich in myth and legend. The pieces could be described as ethereal and really need to be seen in real life to be appreciated. Ilona’s work is not easy to categorise. She describes herself as an Outsider artist and her paintings are imbued with symbolism and surrealism. She depicts buried memories tracing back to childhood, this selection relates to stories she heard during her upbringing in the UK and France and also fairy tales told to her by her Hungarian family.

It has been wonderful seeing visitors enjoying the walled garden, ferneries and courtyard buildings since they reopened. We are so happy to finally have a classroom space to hold workshops and school trips. Our first artist workshop will be taking place on 9th and 10th October. Janet Chaplin’s Salt and Ink workshop will provide an exciting opportunity to create a wonderful and unique piece of art using unusual techniques and foliage from the gardens. Hopefully this will be the first artist workshop of many, so keep an eye out on our social media pages and website to see what else we will offer later in the year. The classroom has also been the setting for a few children’s birthday parties this month. Picton can be the most perfect location for a children’s birthday. There is so much to do within the grounds. Private handling sessions can be arranged with the Welsh Owl Garden and Zoo, the Mansion of Mystery Escape rooms can offer a truly unique experience and the restaurant can provide delicious catering. You can book a birthday party from as little as £10 per child which includes 2 hours exclusive use of the heritage classroom and Western Red Cedar tree, the perfect setting for party games and a celebration lunch.

You may have seen that we closed the entire site on Saturday 25th September. This was because we held a very important event. The members of Pembrokeshire Scouts had exclusive use of the grounds for the day to hold their annual Jamboree. The last time a Scout Jamboree was held at Picton was in 1952. An account of that event can be found here http://www.6thbarry.org/1952picton.html. Over 300 children attended the event in September, taking part in a range of exciting activities. They had a go at firing a bow and arrow with the Cleddau Reach Archers, they were inspired by  STEM Ambassadors (volunteers from science, technology, engineering and mathematics related jobs), they had handling sessions with the Welsh Owl Garden and Zoo, made a bug hotel, experienced a behind the scenes tour of the Castle with our new Director Rhiannon and the older leaders were given an important lesson in working together and problem solving when they were trapped in the Mansion of Mystery escape rooms. The event was a huge success and the Scouts left beaming from ear to ear.

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