During the Second World War, the reservoir was brought back into use to as water storage against bombing. Its use as a water source had long since been passed to much larger reservoirs further up the valley. A use was found for the reservoir as a container for rubble from the redevelopment of Swansea during the 1950’s and the bottom of the park was grassed over, becoming the children’s play area and large green space it remains to till today.
The other most noticeable changes were the creation of the Dylan Thomas Memorial Gardens in the early 1970’s. Although its name has since changed, you can still see the memorial stone which was the centre of a pretty garden at the centre of the park. At much the same time, public subscription raised money for a memorial shelter to the poet, standing at the top of the old path that ran round the the reservoir.
Although the planting in the park is a shadow of its Edwardian heyday, you can still catch glimpses of the shape and design of the park as it was set out in its first days, and turning a corner, it’s still possible to imagine yourself as much in the past as in the present.
Opened in July 1874, Cwmdonkin Park was, like many of the Parks of Britain, a Victorian creation. The park was built on the land already occupied by Cwmdonkin reservoir and from two fields bought from the Ffynone Estate belonging to a local landowner, Mr James Walters. The cost of the purchase of the fields was £4,650, but the use of public funds to purchase the park was consdered somewhat controversial at the time, according to the Borough records and those of the Cambrian newspaper.
Building parks was an extremely fashionable topic in the professional journals and newspapers of the day, where the need for relaxation, leisure and exercise was discussed and debated avidly. It is no surprise then that the park was created at the Western edge of the town in what was essentially a professional area.
The other great public preoccupation of the Victorians, health, had been behind the building of reservoirs in Swansea, following the two cholera outbreaks of 1832 and 1849, but the land around the reservoir was rather a mess if we are to believe the discussions preceding the park’s creation. It was described variously as “the destructive pit at Cwmdonkin, euphemistically called a reservoir”, and “at present the land surrounding the Cwmdonkin reservoir is waste. The hedges on the upper side are in so dilapidated a condition that cattle may get through and trespass on the fields.”
The fields and the area round the reservoir were landscaped and planted over the next few years with the sort of features you would expect in a Victorian park. It was laid out with the informal paths you can see to this day, and included a bandstand for concerts by the local police and military bands. The planting of the park started in 1876 and probably reached its peak in Edwardian times, and the 1910 catalogue describes 15,000 species of plants in the park. Many of these were exotics that would be considered totally inapporopriate today.
There are two listed trails. They do involve a little hill climbing, but not too much distance to walk.
The Annual General Meeting of the Friends of Cwmdonkin Park will take place this Thursday, 21st June, at 6.30pm in St. James Parish Hall.
The park has 4 tennis courts and one basketball area for you to play all year long. The systems works on a first come, first served basis, so please just turn up to enjoy these great outdoor activities.
Summertime always adds a warm glow when we are outside, tinting the most harsh of landscapes. We are fortunate in the park to have great colours all around the year, but especially in the summer months the greens are luscious, verdant and inviting.
Have a look at images taken during the summer in our Gallery.
We have a great setting in the park for you to use, with a number of picnic benches and set in a mostly shaded area.
The only thing we ask of course is that you take your waste with you.
The family fun day included circus activities and puppet animals.