Parks and gardens thought to be of national importance are included on the Cadw/ICOMOS Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest in Wales.
The Register was compiled in order to aid the informed conservation of historic parks and gardens by owners, local planning authorities, developers, statutory bodies and all concerned with them.
It is non-statutory and has been issued in six volumes, covering former county council areas and unitary authorities. It was completed in 2002 but is not a closed list, and sites can be added (or subtracted) at any time.
There are currently 372 sites on the Register. In the same way as historic buildings are categorised, these sites are graded I, II* and II. An example of a Grade I-listed site is Hawarden Castle, a Grade II* site is Aberglasney and a Grade II site is Ruthin Castle.
In choosing sites for the Register Cadw takes many factors into account:
- The date of the site.
- Its state of preservation.
- Whether it is a good example of its type.
- Whether it is the work of known designers.
- Whether it is associated with persons of note.
- Whether it is unusual or rare in any way.
Sites on the Register do not have to be open to the public, and in fact most are not. However, an increasing number do open and the Welsh Historic Gardens Trust publishes a comprehensive booklet on them, the Guide to the Historic Parks and Gardens of Wales.
Parks and gardens on the Register range in age from medieval to late 20th-century. Many have features from different styles and periods, such as Powis Castle. There is no exact cut-off date for gardens included on the Register, and there are sites where significant historical developments have been added as late as the 1960s, 1970s and 1990s.
There are many types of site on the Welsh Register:
- Earthwork remains of early gardens such as Haroldston and Raglan Castle.
- Medieval deer parks like Abergavenny Priory.
- Formal parks and gardens, some with avenues and canals, such as Erddig.
- Landscape parks like Chirk Castle.
- Small town gardens such as St. John's, Monmouth.
- Cemeteries like Wrexham Cemetery.
- Churchyards such as St Brynach's churchyard, Nevern.
- Japanese gardens like that at Shirenewton Hall.
- Even an underground garden, such as the one at Dewstow House.
There are a significant number of urban parks on the Register, with 39 entries (about 10 per cent of the total). Cardiff and Swansea have a magnificent collection of Victorian urban parks, with Roath Park, Singleton Park and Clyne Gardens (all listed Grade I) ranking as some of the best in Britain.
The Register does not affect existing planning and listed building controls, but statutory consultation on planning applications involving parks and gardens on the Register is in the process of being introduced in Wales. All applications will be referred to the Garden History Society and those concerning sites graded I and II* will also be referred to Cadw. In the meantime a similar, but voluntary, system of consultation is in place.
Cadw helps to protect historic parks and gardens through advice to local planning authorities on planning applications affecting registered sites. The aim is to prevent damage to significant features, such as historic layout, structure, built features and planting. The authority does not simply try to preserve everything as it is. In fact, in many cases development is both benign and beneficial. However, it is important that insensitive development should not harm the historic and visual character of historic parks and gardens and consultation on planning applications can help to prevent this.
English Heritage compiles the Register of Parks and Gardens of special historic interest in England. It currently includes some 1,600 designed landscapes of many different types.
The Northern Ireland Environment Agency(NIEA) maintains the Register of Parks, Gardens and Demesnes of Special Historic Interest, which is available online