3. Garden Lakes – Pwll yr Ardd
A beautiful necklace of lakes and streams creates a gentle transition from the formal to the informal parts of the Botanic Garden, and provides an important habitat for aquatic wildlife. These water features were created by William Paxton, the landowner who transformed the original 17th century Middleton Estate into a Georgian water park. His ingenious system of lakes, streams, ponds and cascades were formed using dams, bridges and sluices. These not only added beauty to the park but were also designed to provide a state-of-the-art water supply for his new Middleton Hall. After the mansion burnt down in 1931, the lakes were drained and they gradually turned into muddy thickets, so choked with trees that it was hard to believe they had once held clear water. Now, one by one, the seven lakes are being restored – first Pwll yr Ardd (Garden Pool), then the bridge and weir that retain Llyn Uchaf (Upper Lake), and Llyn Canol (Middle Lake).
A lovely path takes you past the other restored lakes, each now abuzz with colourful and busy wildlife. The floating nests built by coots are especially popular with visitors. The damp soil conditions around the water’s edge are ideal for perennials like winter aconite, hellebores, primulas, irises, astilibes, gunnera and the skunk cabbage, whilst water lilies flourish on the water’s surface.
Pwll Yr Ardd, which is nearest to the Gatehouse and supports the Welsh Water Discovery Centre, is approximately one and a half metres deep. This is the smallest and shallowest of the lakes on the estate. It is likely that this lake was used for the gathering of ice for the Ice House.