Old Hall Gardens

Then... and Now

The year 2005 saw a great deal of community energy pouring into central Cowbridge.

The town walls around two sides of Old Hall grounds were undergoing the removal of ivy and other destructive vegetation prior to their eventual restoration – work undertaken by the Charter Trust under the initiative and leadership of the late Luke Millar.

Luke gathered together teams of volunteers, who worked at least one morning a week using tools provided by the Vale Council. This work was to continue for around eighteen months.

The late Luke Millar.

2005: The crumbling South Wall before renovations began.


Excavations along the South Wall, showing the central 'pit' and the medieval wall.

The planned Physic Garden was similarly using volunteers, many of whom were also working on the walls, to dig over and clear its large plot. The gate connecting this to the grounds of Old Hall, meant that the latter would soon be in desperate need of a ‘face lift’ to complement the future beauty of the Physic Garden and the envisaged grandeur of the restored town walls.

Then...2006: The South Wall is on the right of this picture, the Old Grammar School is in the distance, and the gate into the Physic Garden can be seen between the two trees on the left.

and Now...2015: This area now contains a colourful summer border along the South Wall, and a wildflower meadow in what was previously the wasteland shown on the left.

By November 2006, a sub-group of the ‘Walls’ committee, chaired by John Sherwood and comprising of Linda and Rob Nottage, Luke Millar and Mary Wallis, produced a written proposal for an open meeting of interested Cowbridge citizens. The plan was to retain the formality of the Old Hall garden, with its façade, its paths, trees and pond, whilst creating pleasing borders and areas to encourage insects, birds and other wildlife. Plants would provide seeds, berries and nectar; habitats would be created for small mammals, and nesting sites and nest boxes for birds; a wildflower meadow would be sown, composting encouraged, and appropriate interpretation boards and wildlife display facilities provided.

It was hoped that volunteers from the community would come together to undertake this ongoing work, and that the project would help young people and their families develop their own gardens for the encouragement of wildlife.

And the rest is history . . . but below are some pictures to remind us of the transformation that has taken place.

Then...2006: The pond was choked by too much vegetation, and the façade was hidden by shrubs and brambles.

and Now... 2016: The pond is planted to attract wildlife, and the façade has been given a face-lift.

Then...2006: The Raised Bastion was overgrown with nettles, ivy and brambles – some of which are still proving difficult to control!

Then... 2006: The building on the left was the local Health Centre.

and Now... 2016: A Lavender border has been planted along one side, and a variety of shrubs and plants along the other. You'll see many of daffodils in the spring!

and Now... 2015: The building is now a children's nursery, which has had to be fenced off. A hedge of native Beech and Hornbeam has been planted along its length.

If you are interested in learning more about the history of Old Hall Gardens, and of Cowbridge in general, please come and visit the History Room within Old Hall, High Street, Cowbridge CF71 7AH on a Wednesday morning between 10:00 and 12:00.

The History Room is run by Betty Alden, who is also one of the volunteers working in Old Hall Gardens. You will find a wealth of information – as well as a warm welcome!