The Carboniferous Garden

About the project

This ongoing project is being developed at Cyfarthfa Castle Glasshouse in partnership with Adult learning disability day services Outdoor Projects Team.

This truly alternative geological project was conceived following some exceptional public responses to fossil plant hunting events that we’ve put on over the past few years. Since BIGC started its Coalfield Geo Heritage project back in 2005 we’ve held numerous fossil plant hunting events ( rock bashes ) as a way of promoting our projects, engaging the general public and encouraging kinds in particular to become more interested in geology. Working in partnership with local surface mining companies based in the South Wales Coalfield we’ve been able to obtain a plentiful supply of fantastic fossil rich mudstones for these events. Thanks to the support of these companies over the years, these rock bashes have become more elaborate and well organised with some events like the one run in conjunction National Museum Wales and Miller Argent for the Royal Horticultural Society Show in Cardiff, attracting an amazing 3900 participants over 3 days.
In order to explain to participants what primitive plants produced these fossils, and of course contributed to the formation of South Wales’ famous coal seams, we started to take along some modern relatives, living tree ferns, horsetails and other primitive plants. The concept of growing a Carboniferous Garden developed from this need to illustrate and explain what the prehistoric plants and Carboniferous environment of South Wales might have once looked like.

The garden project is housed at Cyfarthfa Greenhouse which sit on site of old Victorian Glasshouses which once formed part of the Cyfarthfa Castle estate. These days the glasshouses are a public facility managed by Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Councils Outdoor projects team, who assist individuals with a learning disability to undertake the daily running of the building for the use of all. The glasshouses provide opportunities for training and activities in an integrated, cross generational, mixed ability environment with community groups and the general public.

At the moment the project is in its early stages and we’re working to ensure that the microclimate and environment within the glasshouse is suitable and stable enough for the plants that we’d like to grow. At the moment we’ve introduced a limited number of plants in order to test the conditions and over the next year we’ll be progressively increasing the planting and developing a planting scheme in order to produce an impressive display that will hopefully give the garden and glasshouse a lush prehistoric feel. We’ll be installing some interpretation and enhancing the display with large specimen fossils of appropriate plants.
Ultimately we’re aiming to showcase our finished garden at an RHS event before returning it to Cyfarthfa Greenhouses in Merthyr where it’ll continue to be an education and community resource as well as enhancing the Cyfarthfa Castle visitor experience.

About the site

Situated just behind Cyfarthfa Castle in Merthyr Tydfil the greenhouses sit on the area of the former Victorian Glasshouses. The greenhouses at Cyfarthfa Castle are open to the public, please feel free to pop in and see how we’re getting along with our project. Park at Cyfarthfa Castle.

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