As for everyone the last few months have been very strange for us. With the majority of Gower beaches shut to dogs over the summer we tend to spend the months between May and October taking Indy for walks elsewhere.
In a bid to avoid any potential crowds we picked Bryngawr Country Park for our Sunday walk this week. Despite it only being about 40 minutes away neither of us had heard of it before. We arranged to meet up with friends that we’d not seen since before lockdown and have a socially distanced explore with them, their children and Indy.
- Admission cost: Free. The car park is £3 but you could also park in the village.
- Opening hours: 1st April – 30th September: 10am – 5.30pm. 1st October – 31st March: 10am – 4.30pm.
- Dog friendly: Yes! It does ask that they are kept on a lead, but in the woods a lot of people didn’t.
- Facilities: Toilets next to the car park. There is also a cafe and garden centre, neither of which are open at present.
How to get there
Bryngawr is just north of Bridgend, about 10 minutes from the M4. Take the junction 36 exit onto the A4061 and then the A4065. Turn right when you reach the Fox and Hounds in the centre of Brynmenyn. It is signposted as Bryngawr.
History of Bryngawr
Excerpt taken from the Bryngawr website:
From 1775 the Bryngarw estate was the property of the coal-owning Traherne family.
The last member of the family to live in Bryngarw was Captain Onslow Powell Traherne, a stockbroker and industrialist from London. Between 1910 and 1920 he used some of his wealth to extend the house and developed the Oriental garden. He introduced many exotic plants and trees, such as the tulip tree, handkerchief tree, magnolias and sequoias which were brought back from his extensive travels around the world.
In the early 1940s the estate was sold to a local businessman, R S Hayes, who lived there with his family until his death in 1959 when it was sold and acquired by the council and used as accommodation. The house was converted into nine flats and 32 residential caravans were sited in the grounds (sadly this was the common fate of a lot of large houses in South Wales. A lot of them were subsequently demolished).
In 1982 the local council designated it a future country park and the formal gardens and lake were recovered after 25 years of neglect, opening to the public in 1986. The house is now a hotel, with conservatory restaurant, and a wedding venue.
In total the park covers over 110 acres, and we ended up exploring just the area around the house. To the south west, opposite the car park, is a children’s play area, and behind that a stunning wildflower meadow. We arrived shortly after the park opened, so had it mostly to ourselves. I would imagine that even when it was busier this area would still be fairly undisturbed.
Walking through the meadow we followed the path round to the left, through a pretty woodland area, that came back out near to the car park.
We walked up to the house itself, past the ornamental lake. The house is a gorgeous piece of Victorian gothic architecture and the front lawns would be the perfect place for a sunny picnic.
Following the path to the left hand-side of the house led us to another woodland area and some of the giant redwoods that Captain Treherne brought back to Bryngawr from his travels. While not as big as the trees we saw in California, they were still majestic.
The path leads into a another woodland area, rather grandly called ‘Kensington’. From here you can follow the path right to the River Garw (where Indy had a little paddle to cool off) and the beautiful Oriental Gardens, filled with Japanese maples, a pond, and the requisite Guzei bridge which no Japanese inspired garden would be complete without.
Although we covered the main areas of Bryngawr, I feel there is a lot more we could explore; it’s hard to cover much ground when you’re chatting with friends you’ve not seen in nearly 5 months and an inquisitive toddler wanting to look at everything!
I would definitely add this to our list of places to return. There are lots of areas to sit and enjoy a picnic, wooded areas which are great for exploring with the dog (we tend to visit woodland places in the warmer months and stick to beaches in the winter for fear of Alabama Rot) and I imagine the formal grounds, especially the Oriental Garden, would be stunning in the Autumn.