During the second half of the twentieth century, the glories of the Victorian paradise faded and Penllergare began its long slide into dereliction.
After Sir John Talbot Dillwyn Llewelyn died in 1927, the family moved away and the estate changed hands several times. Eventually, in 1961, the ‘Big House’ was destroyed and replaced by council offices.
Development and vandalism added to the effects of neglect. The woodland gardens were top-sliced by the M4 motorway. Modern houses were built right up to the Walled Gardens and spilled into the old parkland.
Penllergare became wild – an adventure playground for the young, a ‘no go area’ for others – and its past Victorian glories became lost in the overgrowth.
However, the beauty and tranquillity of old Penllergare still remains in the collective memory of the many people who, over the last eighty years, have walked, played and courted in this secluded valley – as well as in the superb early photographs of John Dillwyn Llewelyn.
The Penllergare Trust
In the late 20th century, as development encroached upon the estate, it was decided by a team of determined volunteers that independent action was necessary to save this ‘secret and magical place’ – for everyone to enjoy.
The Penllergare Trust was formed in 2000 as a (not for profit) company and registered charity with three purposes, in order of priority, of:
promoting knowledge and appreciation of Penllergare
protection and conservation of wildlife
Over a decade of campaigning
For the next 12 years, local volunteers guided by Michael Norman, Hal Moggridge and Richard Morris – the founder members of the Penllergare Trust, worked hard to campaign for the future protection and restoration of Valley Woods.
Without legal tenure for the land, they slowly started to awaken this secret and magical place by opening up paths, uncovering historic features and working with the local community to stop further development, to carry out surveys and reports on archaeological and wildlife conditions and to apply for funding.
An intense programme of educational programmes and guided walks were initiated too to promote knowledge and appreciation of Penllergare and to educate the next generation.
In April 2012, the leases of Penllergare Valley Woods were finally assigned to the Penllergare Trust, effectively securing them for public benefit until 2116.
This in turn initiated the award of £2.4m by the Heritage Lottery Fund through its Parks for People programme to support the first phase of an ambitious £2.9m restoration scheme focussed on the northern end of the valley.