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A Visit to Braevallich Farm

by Dot Dahl, Oban u3a

This is the time of year that many West coast gardens in Scotland are at their very best. We in the Oban area are lucky, too, to have two National Trust for Scotland gardens in the area, but it is such fun to explore new places - and the SGS helps a great deal with that! It offers such variety!

Braevallich Farm ©Dot Dahl
Braevallich Farm ©Dot Dahl

Last year we intended to visit Braevallich Farm Gardens in early June, and so a colleague and myself arranged to go for a pre-visit to gauge how to get there, and how long it would take, how suitable the terrain would be for the group, and whether it would really appeal. We were lucky enough to be taken round by the owner, and one time plant hunter, I believe, Philip Bowden Smith. What a fund of knowledge he proved to be, with such a memory for all the amazing rhododendrons and azaleas in particular that are such a feature!

It was a very hot dry start to that year, and Mr Bowden-Smith’s massive tank to help with watering had run dry, and then the day the whole group were due to visit was to prove far too hot! Would you believe it! Mr Bowden-Smith was actually very relieved, and I, as leader, couldn’t risk fellow members being overcome by heat!! 

Roll on to this year!

Braevallich Farm
Braevallich Farm

We, all 9 of us, had a thoroughly excellent visit. The gardener led us to the upper woodland garden and talked about the mammoth task he and others have had after the shocking weather in October that, incidentally, closed the main road after a hillside descended on to it. That road is still under a diversion. In the garden, streams became torrents and banks washed away. Bridges became unseated etc. A great deal of time, and effort, has been spent making the gardens safe and pleasant to visit. The upper garden is a delightful woodland area with native trees interspersed with fantastic Rhododendrons and Azaleas. Bridges, including a beautifully designed suspension bridge, criss cross the area allowing one to meander through the garden, mainly on mown grass paths. One has to drag oneself away from this to leave time to see the lower gardens - and we didn’t have time to see them all! The garden adjacent to the house has more of a mixture of species, including drifts of blue Meconopsis poppies, and candelabra primulas of various shades, including a very dusky one. In part of this, azaleas have been planted close together and pruned so that the colours intermingle. Very clever design and management. There is a thriving kitchen garden, and even an orchard area which we had to leave for another occasion.

As you know, the owners of SGS gardens are asked if they’d like to take donations towards a charity and we happily parted with £6 towards local / global charity Mary’s Meals. I must say that was exceedingly good value for money!!

So, if you possibly can, take advantage of visiting Braevallich on their Open Day, Sunday 2nd June when there will be refreshments provided too, maybe in the lovely conservatory.

Braevallich Farm
Braevallich Farm

We are very lucky indeed to have several SGS gardens in our area. Indeed there are several within 10 miles or so of Oban. We

Views from Achnacloich
Views from Achnacloich

have visited several of them. One of our favourites is Achnacloich Garden, which is 2 miles E of Connel. It is open on Saturdays only, but all year round. We would thoroughly recommend it as a sanctuary with love views of Loch Etive, and something of interest and beauty at any season. In June there is an area covered in orchids which is just a treat to behold.

About 15 minutes S of Oban is Barochreal, which is open by arrangement. It is a small garden that is full of variety and we have been made very welcome indeed by the owners. Of added interest is their apiary, and the history attached to the site.

In the Appin area, N of Oban, by Loch Laich, on which stands Castle Stalker, are Berandhu and Kinlochlaich Gardens. They are very different. Berandhu is small and beautifully formed on the shores of the loch - open by arrangement. Kinlochlaich is much bigger and as well as having a garden that is well worth visiting, it has an extensive nursery, where it is very difficult indeed not to spend money! For those of us living in the area, it is useful as a source of plants that are very likely to survive locally!

There are also SGS gardens on the Isle of Seil, over the iconic humpback ‘Bridge over the Atlantic’.

I could go on!!

We are very lucky indeed to be in an area enhanced by the Gulf Stream, so a very equable climate.

We are also enriched by being members of the u3a, which offers a range of member led activities for enjoyment and interest for those who are retired, or finding more time for relaxation and socialising.

With thanks to Dot and the Oban u3a group for sharing their visits!

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