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Clyne Gardens and Clyne Valleyby Gary Reading, Apr 2019
Clyne Gardens are currently owned by the City and County of Swansea and open to the public all year round (free admission). Throughout the month of May each year the gardens are promoted for ‘Clyne in Bloom’, to showcase the spectacular display of award-winning rhododendrons and azaleas in full bloom.
The nineteen hectares of botanical gardens in Clyne were established by the millionaire William Graham Vivian in 1860, who devoted time and money, ensuring the gardens reflected his financial status. During his occupancy Vivian planted three notable trees in front of Clyne Castle, a Wellingtonia and two Monterey Cypress; one of which is of fastigiate form and the tallest recorded in Britain.
When the gardens finally passed to Vivian’s nephew, Admiral Algeron Vivian, in 1921 the mass accumulation of significant plants continued until his death in 1952. Algeron ‘The Admiral’, financed plant collecting expeditions to China and the eastern Himalayas to fill the garden, particularly the 800 rhododendrons that bring the gardens certain acclaim. He also included decorative features such as a red Japanese Bridge, the romantically styled Admiral’s Tower and a Gazebo.
Clyne Valley use to be an important area of industrial activity and this heritage is still visible in the County Park, such as the old twin cylinder horizontal steam-winding engine remains of Ynys Colliery. Coal mining started here from 1305 on a small scale and developed into a large scale coal industry in the 16th century. The Clyne Wood Colliery operated from around the turn of the 20th century working the shallow coal deposits here.
Remains can also be found of an ironworks near Clyne Quarry in the north and a chemical works off Mill Lane in the south.
To support the developing industries in the valley, the Clyne Canal was built in 1799 and a tramway connecting with Mumbles Railway was built in 1804. The park’s cycle track and footpath follows the trackbed route of the former LMS railway from Swansea Victoria to Shrewsbury.
The last industrial activity in Clyne Valley was brickmaking, which ended during the late 1950s when the Clyne Valley (Killay) brickworks closed. The bricks produced were clearly stamped for easy identification and can still be spotted locally today.
A one time forest, Hen Barc forms an area of partly enclosed land to the west of Clyne Wood. This area was once a post-medieval encroachment, used for preserving and hunting game such as deer, possibly dating from the mid-sixteenth century or before.
Clyne Wood was exploited for a variety of uses ranging from the production of wood products, rabbit farming in the eighteenth century (pillow mounds evident) and arsenic production at the Clyne Wood Arsenic and Copper Works up until 1860 when Clyne Wood and Clyne Farm were incorporated into the Woodlands (Clyne) Estate of William Graham Vivian.
Growing in the upper part of Clyne wood are oak, birch, hazel, alder, buckthorn, crab apple with wood horsetail and lemon-scented fern.
Clyne Valley cycle path dissects the quiet woodland of Clyne Valley and continues through Dunvant to the large conurbation of Gowerton. This spectacular 4.5 mile stretch of cycle path was built upon an old disused railway line and connects Blackpill, Dunvant and Gowerton. This is, without doubt, Gower’s finest cycle path.