Growing ambition

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Nathan and Bodnant’s acting head gardener, Adam Salvin

We have many volunteers at Bodnant Garden. Some are retired people with time to give while others, like Nathan Lewis, are gaining valuable work experience in order to build their careers. This is Nathan’s story…

“If you want to be the best you have to be trained by the best” – in his own words, that was what drove Nathan Lewis to seek out work experience at Bodnant Garden. Nathan has just come to the end of six weeks volunteering at our National Trust garden near Conwy, which he’s been doing alongside studying at horticultural college.

You could say he’s got the gardening bug. The day after he finished at Bodnant he jetted off to Italy with a local community group to look at garden projects over there. Now back home in Llanrwst, he’s getting stuck in again with his studies, helping at his local allotment group and considering the next step in his horticultural career.

Nathan is a real advocate of the opportunities volunteering can bring. At 34 he has come to gardening in a roundabout way (like many of us). After a decade and some of various jobs, from carpentry to labouring, he decided to follow that nagging voice in his head and try for a job in horticulture…but where to start?

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Weeding in the Shrub Borders with Bodnant gardener Graeme

He says: “I had a hard think about what I really wanted to do. I have always enjoyed gardening, like my dad and taid – Taid used to take part in the Llanrwst Show with his vegetables. I love fruit and vegetable growing in my small garden too.”

Nathan got involved with Golygfa Gwydyr in Llanrwst, a non-profit, community organisation which provides opportunities for volunteering and training through activities based in the Gwydyr Forest – including a community garden growing fruit and veg.

Project officer Rosie Evans says: “Nathan has been involved with the garden from the start two years ago, coming along at weekends with his kids. He has sorted the soil for us and advised us what to plant and it’s doing well. He’s a star – I’ve made him my head gardener!”

Seeing his potential, Rosie encouraged Nathan to follow his ambitions and to enrol at Northop College where he is doing a Level 2 Diploma in Horticulture. Part of that has involved seeking out work experience…which is what brought him to Bodnant Garden.

In his six weeks at with us Nathan has mucked in with the garden team in all aspects of routine maintenance including weeding and maintaining beds, working with the arborists and cleaning out one of the pools. But it hasn’t been all routine – his favourite job was cutting back cornus on one of the islands which involved using a boat!

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Mucking in…Helping clean out the Deep Bath at Bodnant Garden

Nathan says: “The six weeks has been a great taster. It’s given me real experience of real gardening. I would recommend volunteering to everyone. It gives you hands-on experience and can be a way into work. You get just as much back as you put in, and more.”

In Nathan’s case, his recent tour of Italian gardens wasn’t a bad return for his efforts! The trip was funded by Golygfa Gwydyr through grant sources. That, and the time he’s spent at Bodnant Garden, has been the inspiration for Nathan to keep pushing forward with his ambitions.

If you are interested in volunteering at Bodnant Garden, whether gardening or visitor services, contact our office anytime on 01492 650460. You can also find out more about Golygfa Gwydyr by contacting Rosie Evans on 01492 642110.

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