The Frenchman at Dinas Oleu

View of Mawddach Estuary and Cardigan Bay

Dinas Oleu is a very special place for many; it was once home to Auguste Guyard and pioneers including Mrs Fanny Talbot. Discover how this hillside overlooking Barmouth inspired so many people, and continues to do so today.

Auguste Guyard came to Britain with his daughter in 1871 after fleeing the siege of Paris during the Franco-Prussian war. He spent the remainder of his life tending the slopes, planting herbs, flowers and vegetables.  His final wish was to be buried on the hillside where he spent so much time.

Pioneers of their time

On 29 March 1895, Dinas Oleu became our first piece of land that we would protect for ever, for everyone. The 4.5 acres of land was donated by Mrs Fanny Talbot, a reasonably wealthy land owner, philanthropist and friend of Octavia Hill and Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley, two of our founders.

But Dinas Oleu wasn’t the first piece of land Mrs Talbot donated.  In 1874, she donated twelve cottages and a 4.5 acre area of land to the influential art critic, John Ruskin’s project, The Guild of St George.

Auguste Guyard was given a home by John Ruskin; one of Mrs Fanny Talbot’s former cottages, number 2, Rock Gardens. Guyard had attempted to create a 'commune modele' in his home village of Frotey-Les-Vesoul, where he was born in 1808. His aims closely resembled those of John Ruskin.

Known locally as The Frenchman, Guyard spent his time carving terraces, on these he grew vegetables, herbs and medicinal plants which he shared with the poor. He also had a way with animals and tamed a hawk and a Jackdaw.

Guyard died in 1882 and was buried in a walled plot near to Dinas Oleu. He'd composed his own epitaph for his gravestone. It's recently been translated from French into English and Welsh and is inscribed on a plaque nearby.

 "Here lodged a sower who,
 To his grave, sowed the seeds,
 Of truth, of right, of beauty,  
 With obsession.
 In a thousand struggles,
 With pen and body,
 Such labours are not rewarded,
 In this world."

Frenchman’s Grave
Dinas Oleu - "Fortress of Light"