A group of dedicated volunteers is helping to preserve a beautiful Victorian garden in Abergavenny. CARYS THOMAS reports.

THE Linda Vista House and its ornamental garden is situated just off Tudor Street in Abergavenny. The garden was bought by Abergavenny Borough Council in 1957 from the Whitehead family.

Monmouthshire County Council maintain the gardens with the help of Friends of Linda Vista who have been planting and improving the grounds for the last six years.

Since the group was formed they have created a rose garden and have improved the access to the site for wheelchair users and buggies.

Oliver Barton, chairman of Friends of Linda Vista, said: "I've been involved from the beginning. Its a very beautiful garden it an old Victorian garden. We have very interesting trees and it's very convenient in the centre of the town.

"We have lots of unusual plants such as the fox glove tress, and the Indian bean tree which has bean like fruit."

Among other unusual plants are the Corkscrew hazel (Contorta) which produces catkins in February, the Twisted or Dragon's Claw willow, the Monkey Puzzle which has spiky leaves and are believed to have evolved to stop dinosaurs eating them, and the Holm Oak which is a large evergreen.

Mr Barton said: "We are collecting autumn coloured trees at the moment to make a small arboretum. We have about 10 trees at the moment which people have donated.

"They can sponsor a tree to celebrate a birth or in memory of someone. We have focused on North American trees such as the liquid amber."

The group are also developing a nature bank to transform the grassy bank with native wildflowers and meadow grasses. The team of six will need to prepare the ground for two years to clear the area of weeds.

Katrina Gass, 67, member of Friend of Linda Vista, said: "The best thing about being involved with Friends is being in a group of people which are doing something really positive for the town. We have great fun out of going there - I have a small town garden so its fun for me to play down there in all that space.

"The gardens are well used increasingly more people talk about it. Lots of families with children use it and during the summer people eat their lunches out here as all benches are full."

The group applied for funding to help with paths which had poor drainage. They used boardwalks to create a new path and put in a bog garden.

Paddy Beynon, member of Friends of Linda Vista, said: "Some of the paths were neglected we used boardwalks and created a bog garden on those areas. This was our first success."

The group worked to join up the paths to complete a circuit around the gardens for better access for wheelchair users and pushchairs.

She said: "We've put an extra entrance in which goes directly to the meadows. This had a big effect on the amount of people walking through the garden. Theres definetley more dog walkers than before.

"Lots of people stop and chat with us and tell us how wonderful the garden is. It is extremely rewarding to have such great feedback. I'd say that was best part if doing it."

The group have created round circular beds from cut conifer trees and made tables from the stumps. They have also put in a growing willow tunnel.

Mrs Beynon said: "Its great fun for the children. They can clamber up the stumps. The play area has been a big success really."

The group are looking for more volunteers to help out with maintenance work as the council face more cuts.

She said:"Maintenance is always the problem. The gardens are fairly well maintained a council gardener comes in but there isn't a specific gardener for Linda Vista.

"The bits that we do we try and maintain as best as we can. We need young helpers on a more regular basis. We are thinking of getting a weekly or fortnightly slot arranged to meet up so that everyone can feel part of a team."

Anyone wishing to help out should contact Oliver Barton on 01873 737671, or email oliver.barton@virgin.net.