A Dutch Family History
230 years in the Dutch tree-nursery trade
...our family inheritance
Akkermans is an old name in Dutch horticulture. Our great, great, great Grandfather Johannes Akkermans, born in 1791, was the first to set up a nursery near Breda in the Netherlands. His descendants carried on the tradition, slowly spreading across the Low Countries. In 1983 one decided on a slightly different path and a very different country. With his young family in tow he emigrated to West Wales, this time not to start a nursery but to make a garden. Wil Akkermans had obviously inherited his forbears’ love of plants, and although a French teacher in his native Holland, he couldn’t escape the call of those green fingers.
In 1974 Wil had married the lovely half English, half Welsh Gillian Davies (having met her while on holiday in Aberystwyth the year before) and they had originally settled in a rural part of the Netherlands, about 6 miles from where Wil grew up. However after visiting RHS Wisley whilst on a visit back to the UK, Wil’s dreams of creating his own garden open to the public took hold.
Unlike most Wil decided to follow his dreams and, with the blessing and backing of his wife, left Holland to return to rural West Wales where they had first met. They chose a 6 acre, dilapidated old small-holding called Cae Hir, and set to work...
Portrait of a Nurseryman's Family
The above photo is a portrait of the Akkermans family circa 1905. Our Great Grandfather, nurseryman Johannes Akkermans, is seated in the centre of the photo flanked by his wife and daughter. Behind him, slightly to the left, is his youngest son Willebrordus Akkermans, our Grandfather. It was he who first moved away from his home town of Breda to start a nursery in the South East of the country in a village called Maashees. This nursery was later inherited by our uncles (our dad's two brothers) and divided into two separate businesses, both highly successful tree nurseries now in the care of our cousins . Our dad, having shown no interest in inheriting his father's nursery, had been more interested in the arts, initially studying and then teaching French. However in 1983 he answered the call of his inherited green fingers and moved to Wales with a dream to create a garden for the public to enjoy. Six years of hard work and stubborn determination meant that on April 30th 1989, on what would have been his father's 100th birthday, the garden was opened to the general public. A fitting tribute to a true family calling and tradition.
Our Grandfather's enamel nursery sign, saying simply
Willibrord. Akkermans BOOMKWEKER
(meaning 'nurseryman'), was badly damaged during the 2nd World War but now hangs proudly at
Our mum and dad, Gill and Wil Akkermans with us, Julie and Stuart, at Cae Hir circa 1986. Our sister Lucie was possibly taking the photo.
to the next generation
In 2009, 20 years after opening to the public, Wil handed over the reigns of his garden to his son Stuart and younger of his 2 daughters, Julie. (His eldest daughter Lucie having emigrated to America in 2000). Stuart is the main force in the garden while Julie runs the office and tea room. Cae Hir is assured of a bright future with the new energy and ideas a new generation brings, and Stuart and Julie have spent the past 10 years growing the business and putting their own stamp on their dad's garden.
With yet another generation (Julie’s children) now to be seen regularly playing in the sunshine during school holidays, the future for Cae Hir looks to be a long and happy one.