Wales' botanic idea takes root

April 7, 1995

Wales is likely to emulate England and Scotland in having a national botanic garden following support from Secretary of State John Redwood.

Four areas have been shortlisted as potential sites for the garden, Bute Park near the castle in Cardiff, Clyne Gardens in Swansea, Penhein, a site of special scientific interest east of Newport and Middleton Hall near Camarthen in Dyfed. The latter is an 18th-century historic garden. Its supporters, led by a board of directors, are convinced that this location is the ideal site.

Cardiff University botanist Professor Dianne Edwards chairs the board's horticultural committee. She said: "It is a splendid opportunity for systematic research. We are making an application to the Millenium Fund for financial support, and we believe that it would cost Pounds 30 million to establish a botanic garden at Middleton."

None of the other sites have yet applied for Millenium funding, and the Middleton board is confident that the project could come to fruition sooner than the rest.

"We have about 500 acres (200 hectares), ample space to meet our three targets of accommodating scientific research, educational projects and tourism," Professor Edwards explained. "On the scientific front, we hope to create a research centre for Welsh flora, a herbarium, seed bank and, in association with Iger at Aberystwyth, a research programme into medicinal plants. Some could even be used in pharmaceutical projects in the future."

A range of special habitats will also be created including a woodland, an alpine and rock garden and a wetland.

But before finalising its plan the board has to wait to find out whether Middleton will become the selected site.

Even if another of the four wins the contest, Professor Edwards is adamant that a botanic garden anywhere in South Wales is welcome. "It will be a new Welsh institution, and one which will become a valuable scientific and tourism resource."

According to the Welsh Office, such a garden would be a major job creator. Between 300 and 400 jobs would be offered during construction and between 100 and 150 permanent jobs when the garden opens.

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