Due to a thick mist which had made driving very slow, those of us arriving at Penberth on April 24th were unable to enjoy the view of the sea down at the cove as we gathered on the semi-circular terrace above the large expanse of chamomile lawn and the woodland garden. As we drank some very welcome coffee, Lady Banham described the making of her childhood home by her grandfather, Doctor Favell and then by her father, Commander Richard Favell and the donation to the National Trust of much of the estate, leaving about 10 acres surrounding the house.

Doctor Favell is remembered as the breeder of many delightful heritage daffodils such as Logan Rock, Sweetness, Porth Chapel and Penberth. Lady Banham’s interest these days is in watsonias which grow well in the Penwith area.

Penberth___0003Penberth___0002Huge, old tree heathers and pittosporum edge the lawn and the path down the valley which is filled with many varieties of camellia and rhododendron. Several drimys were in spectacular flower, cistus and olearia were also flowering, although frost had penetrated quite recently as was shown by the black buds of gunnera and banana. We were fascinated by a clump of pink bamboo a first for most of us and we appreciated the removal of lower branches of the myrtle (Luma apiculata) which exposed the wonderful orange bark. Here at the bottom of the garden path are the remains of the ancient mill mentioned in a 10thC charter.

Entering the bog garden alongside the road, we were startled by the water rushing down over the rocks and were not surprised to hear that it was flooded five times during the winter, although no damage was obvious. Walking past the house we came to fields which have been cleared and planted by the Banhams themselves, a grouping of jacquemontii birches was among many other trees and shrubs – all growing well despite the attentions of badgers and rabbits. Behind the house, a natural rocky hillside is developing into a rock garden with small azaleas, aloes and a South African leucodendron.

As we gathered to thank Lady Banham for the most interesting and enjoyable morning we had spent with her, she reminded us that our own visit was actually arranged by the late Angela Stubbs and suggested that we fall silent for a brief time in her memory.

Margaret Burford