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History of Colby Woodland Garden

A large wheel lies on the woodland floor at Colby Woodland Garden, Pembrokeshire. Plants have grown in each section of the wheel.
An old mine wheel in the woodland at Colby Woodland Garden | © National Trust Images/James Dobson

Colby Woodland Garden wasn’t always a haven of tranquillity. The site played an active part in Pembrokeshire’s coal industry during the late 1700s and you can still discover reminders of Colby's industrial past dotted around the eight-acre grounds and wider estate today.

Industrial roots at Colby Woodland Garden

While records show that coal has been mined in the area for 700 years, Colby’s story really began in the 1790s when landowner John Colby came to Pembrokeshire for industry.

A garden in a coalfield

The land sits at the end of Pembrokeshire’s coal seam and has very narrow seams, so children were used to haul the coal wagons out of the pits. Coal that was mined at Colby was taken to the coast and then by rail to Saundersfoot.

Early maps of the estate indicate the location of many of the mines, but there are no accurate records to determine the exact number. If you do come across anything that looks like a mine entrance, please don’t enter.

Colby’s early key figures


John Colby

It all started with John Colby and coal mining, but there have been a number of key individuals at the estate since. 

A landowner in Pembrokeshire who came to the area in the 1790s to mine coal. He was Lieutenant Colonel Colby of the Pembrokeshire Militia and Governor of Haverfordwest Castle at the time of the Last Invasion. He led the local militia against the last French invasion of Britain in 1797. 

The militia marched through the night to Fishguard where Sir John Campbell of Stackpole took the French surrender. 


Pamela Chance's Memorial at Colby Woodland Garden, Pembrokeshire, which consists of seven pillars in a circle, standing amongst trees.
Pamela Chance's Memorial at Colby Woodland Garden | © National Trust Images/James Dobson

Pamela and Peter Chance and Colby Woodland Garden

They purchased Colby Lodge and the walled garden in 1965 and continued the planting, as well as building the gazebo and commissioning a piece of trompe l’oeil artwork.

In 1979 Peter transferred the ownership of the house and walled garden to the National Trust. The Chances died in the 1980s and left a legacy for a mass planting of rhododendrons.

Memorial in the wood

In the east wood you’ll find a memorial obelisk with the initials IOC, hinting at Peter’s real name, Ivan Oswald. His wife Pamela's memorial is a circle of metal pillars in Long Lane on the opposite side of the valley.

Tony and Cynthia Scourfield-Lewis at Colby

The couple took on Colby Lodge and walled garden in 1985. They helped transform the walled garden into the formal setting you see today, planting and creating the ornamental layout.

The walled garden returned to our care in 2010.

A view of the Walled Garden at Colby Woodland Garden, Pembrokeshire. It has a path running through it, alongside which are densely planted borders and a large mature tree with dark red leaves.

Discover more at Colby Woodland Garden

Find out when Colby Woodland Garden is open, how to get here, the things to see and do and more.

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Visiting the garden at Colby Woodland 

From the walled garden’s humble beginnings as a kitchen garden, the woodland garden’s acres of heritage to our natural playground, there’s something for everyone.

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Eating and shopping at Colby Woodland Garden 

A favourite with locals and visitors alike, the Bothy Tea-room serves delicious lunches and mouth-watering cakes and the Loft Gallery sells hand crafted local products. Our Visitor Centre has a second hand bookshop and souvenirs for the garden.

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Wildlife at Colby Woodland Garden 

Colby’s wooded valley is teeming with creatures great and small. Look out for birds, bugs, very rare bats and even the occasional otter.