IT’S been described as one of the finest ‘pinetums’ in Wales. Now, the historic gardens of Cefn Ila have been brought back to life by the Woodland Trust, restoring wildlife habitats and creating acres of new native woodland.

The project has been made possible with the help and support from National Lottery players through the National Lottery Heritage Fund and a dedicated band of hard-working volunteers.

Cefn Ila near Usk in Monmouthshire was once the site of a 19th-century mansion and gardens. It belonged to the novelist and adventurer Edward Trelawny and was later acquired by Gerard Gustavius Ducarel, the 4th Marquis de la Pasture, whose family had escaped from France during the Revolution. Between the 1940s and the 1970s it was used as a maternity hospital.

The Woodland Trust acquired the site in 2007, planting 36,000 native trees to create a new woodland, and then, seven years later, undertook an ambitious project to restore the historic walled garden, arboretum and ornamental pond to their former glory, making use of a £297,700 grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

The plan has been a hit with local people. The number of monthly visits has shot up from just under 400 in 2014 before the project began, to over 1,300 in 2019.

As part of the project the historic walled garden has been restored, as has the artificial pond, built in the 19th century to supply water to the mansion.

Rob Davies, who manages the site for the Woodland Trust, said: “The support we’ve received from the National Lottery Heritage Fund has been hugely important, allowing us to do so much that we simply could not afford to do otherwise.

“There’s now an amazing sculpture trail, a hibernaculum for the bats, and of course the restored pond and walled garden.”