An Evening to Remember in Wales: An Account by Andrew Lannerd
2 July 2019
Driving down rural, tree lined lanes, with wild hedges. Finally, one reaches it, the only markings are signs that read “LW”, standing for Llwynywermod which translates into “a grove of Wormwoods.”
A royal residence, nestled in the heart of Wales. Hidden on the edge of the Brecon Beacons. The Welsh sanctuary and base of a prince and his duchess when in this noble principality.
Once parked in a green grass field, guests walk thru the trees. Upon my left I see a stunning claret helicopter sitting stationary in a wild, yet beautiful grassy field. Then I see beautiful buildings set down in a valley with an inviting path to walk down. As I walk down, I see something simply magical --- a wildflower and tall grass field which not only pleases the eye but must surely provide a haven for so many different species. This feast for the eyes, personifies the current Prince of Wales and his approach to organic and responsible farming and agriculture.
As I descend down the path and approach a beautiful building --- it may be a whitewashed stone barn, but thoughts immediately turn to elegance as inside the barn the floors are covered in fine and varied hand-woven carpets in various shapes and colours. I also see a gorgeous gilded harp featuring the Prince of Wales feathers --- one that is usually kept in the Morning Room of Clarence House, as well as the royal coat of arms set into the stone wall just behind where the musicians will play – reminding guests that this particular barn is far from ordinary.
Before the performance begins, there is a cool summer breeze flowing alongside the summer evening sounds of birdsong. Then Their Royal Highnesses, The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall arrive and sit in the row in front of me. As they enter, smiles abound, and hushed pleasantries are exchanged.
As the performance begins, this oasis is filled with the sound of fine Welsh music from instruments of all types including the male and female voice. In addition to the music, there is shared laughter by all, and at times there is even puppetry, poetry and drama.
Throughout the performance, a gorgeous summer evening shows its variety and beauty through chickens gently walking past the door, and a lovely bird flying from post to post above my head. I turn upward to the beautiful oak hammerbeam roof.
A seat behind the future King provides an added bonus to what is already a most intimate experience.
At the conclusion of the performance, is the debut of the newly announced royal harpist to The Prince of Wales, Alis Huws. Later in the evening, I chat with her and she radiates with pride at her new posting. Her family and tutor are there as well, and the excitement and joy she feels is shared with all who speak with her during the evening.
Guests mingle over champagne while Their Royal Highnesses greet the cast of performers. Following this they begin to engage with the other guests.
As The Prince of Wales approached me he extended his hand, and I offered my hand in return, with a neck bow. The conversation included the gardens at Llwynywermod, and the conservation and restoration of Gwrych Castle in North Wales.
A few moments later, I mentioned to His Royal Highness that I had been looking through the Christie’s catalogues of Dumfries House (an auction which never happened due to his personal intervention). This incredible Scottish collection was set to be sold by Christies in 2007 until he stepped in to save it for the nation. I told him, “I want to commend you for stepping in to save the collection at Dumfries” and he replied with, “Well thank you. Can you imagine if it had been disbanded?” He then asked, “Have you been to see it?” To which I responded, “Yes, and I’m going again soon.” With great delight he said, “Well done!”
As the party continued, I stepped out into the beautiful courtyard garden. It looked like a dream. Gorgeous soft-colour flowers, low evening sunlight, and the sounds of a gentle fountain. It was as if nature was putting on a show for the guests.
A few minutes later the Duchess of Cornwall approached, and we enjoyed a nice conversation covering various topics such as the development of the house, and their hectic schedule during their time in Wales. She said, “I wish we could come down more often.” She continued to share that she was looking forward to the time ahead in Scotland as she’d be able to be with her grandchildren at Birkhall.
During the performance there was puppetry, including a rather skinny cat puppet which looked like a skeleton. I asked her what she thought of the cat puppet and she said, “Did you see its horrible eyes bulging out?,” over which we had a little giggle. I gently teased, “Anyone would run a mile if that cat appeared in the dark.”
She moved on by asking me what I do, and I shared, “I own a tour company and put together country house, castle and garden tours.” She responded, “Oh how lovely,” and I continued, “I’ve taken a few groups to tour the gardens at Highgrove,” her Gloucestershire residence.
Since the conversation was going very well, I decided to show my cards a bit and say, “I thought I would mention that over the years, we’ve had some correspondence.” She replied inquisitively, “Oh really.” “Yes,” I responded, “and I’ve always appreciated that you’ve sent a personal reply.” She shared earnestly, “I think if someone takes the trouble to write a kind note, they should receive a reply from me”. Asking my name, she makes the connection, “Oh yes! Andrew from America. You’ve been so kind to me over the years. How nice to put a face with a name.” I was honoured for the recognition.
A few other pleasantries were exchanged, but by that point in the evening their royal highnesses were at the reception 15 minutes after their expected departure time. She ended our conversation with, “How nice to have officially met you.”
Later, walking through the wildflower meadow, I knew I just had a very special experience. It was simply magical, and something I will never forget.
— An account by Andrew Lannerd