The cascading waterfall in The Dell is one of the most iconic images of Bodnant Garden. Do a search on the internet and there it is, along with The Pin Mill and the Laburnum Arch – one of the most photographed parts of our beautiful garden.
However, you may spot a small difference to the Waterfall Bridge just at the moment; no, it’s not a post modern design feature, it is indeed…scaffolding. The bridge is undergoing a major renovation, the first in its almost 100-year history, which is part of a £150,000 scheme to make the riverside area of the garden more accessible for visitors.
The garden’s visionary founder Henry Pochin bought the Bodnant estate in the 1870s and planted the giant American and Oriental conifers in The Dell in the decade which followed. He also supervised the construction of rockwork along the banks of the river and streams. A dam was constructed in the early 1900s to harness the River Hiraethlyn and further enhance the dramatic scenery of The Dell, by creating a waterfall and pond behind…and a bridge from which to view them.
Pochin’s foresight paid off, as the spectacle has been delighting visitors for generations. However the time has come for a facelift.
The dam is stone clad with a concrete infill and over the years water has seeped in, eroding the infill and loosening the cladding. Over the next 12 weeks the voids will be pressure grouted with an infill (which is environmentally safe for the watercourse) and the stone frontage repointed – leaving moss where possible so that elvers can scramble their way upwards and onwards along the river.
Bridge timber will be removed and renovated. There will also be improvements to the valve mechanism at the dam which will give more control of the flow of water to the leat which runs alongside the river.
Following on from this, the next part of the project is the construction of a new bridge further upstream and a 2m wide, all weather walkway with landscaping around this south west area of the garden, which is currently closed to the public. The new route will link up the areas along the valley bottom including the Skating Pond, Boathouse and Alder Wood, and it will be opened to the public in 2015.
All this is the result of long consultation with planners, the Welsh Government’s historic environment service CADW and Natural Resources Wales to make sure all work is done in a way which is sympathetic to the garden’s heritage and to the environment.
Included in the project has been the construction of an eel pass, which is being monitored by NRW. It is also hoped to install a fish pass in the future.
Talks are also going on over the problem of continual silting, which impedes the flow of the water and has contributed to flooding in the garden and surrounding areas, as well as inhibiting river wildlife. Last year the garden spent £60,000 on major de-silting works. Thinking ahead, we are in talks with parties such as local landowners, farmers, and other authorities about work upstream as far as the nearby village of Eglwysbach to find a long term solution.
In a few weeks time the Waterfall Bridge will be back to its full splendour – and in another 18 months you’ll be able to enjoy the new riverside walk around the lower garden – but in the meantime, have a once-in-a-lifetime look at the work going on down there, as it will be some time before it’s done again!
The bridge covered in scaffolding, left, and as it normally looks