Yes, the festive season is fast approaching…and our volunteers are gearing up, toasted marshmallows at the ready, to lay on a fun-filled Christmas for visitors.
Volunteers are part of the family here at Bodnant Garden. They provide invaluable help in every aspect of what we do – from gardening to giving visitors guided tours to helping with events – but this year they have gone above and beyond, putting our family events on the map.
As part of the National Trust’s 50 Things campaign to get kids closer to nature, last year we launched Grow Wild at Bodnant Garden, a full programme of events and activities giving families something to do every day of the school holidays.
All based around simple pleasures, some of these were self-guided activities like mud pie making, some were activities with gardeners like seed sowing and some were led by volunteers like craft making. Well this year our volunteers have taken the Grow Wild programme and flown with it! They’ve built on the activities that families really seem to enjoy – like pond dipping and crafts – and put a huge amount of time and effort into honing them and making them a big success.
At the heart of our family programme has been a transformation of the Old Mill. This Grade 11 listed building next to the river in The Dell is a beautiful focal point, but has been boarded up and closed to visitors for many years. In the long term we are looking into full renovation of the 18th century building.
However, this last year our volunteers have turned a derelict old store room in the mill into a family events area which has been just buzzing with activity during the holidays. Completing the transformation of the area has been a new refreshment kiosk and outdoor seating area nearby, with a roaring brazier in the winter, which has turned the area into a real hub for visitors.
Visitor Services volunteers Richard Berry, Dave Horsley and Den Reeve masterminded the workshop transformation last autumn, clearing it out, cleaning it up and turning into an Elves’ Workshop in time for Christmas – our first winter opening at the garden. This year they’ve continued with the alterations and used the space for half term crafts. They’re now gearing up for a second, bigger and better Elves’ Workshop every weekend in December in the run up to Christmas.
Supporting the workshop events are a host of VS volunteers who plan, set up and run the craft activities. Like the awards ceremony…there are too many to mention! But as a example of the contribution that volunteers make to the garden, there are those such as garden volunteer Stuart Sandham who has given his carpentry skills to help build the refreshment kiosk in the Dell – and garden volunteer Arfon Williams who gives extra time help us translating all our signage, posters and leaflets into Welsh!
No one who saw the many visitors pond dipping this summer, enjoying Halloween crafts in the Old Mill or taking their al fresco snacks by the river in The Dell could doubt the contribution volunteers have made to Bodnant Garden this year. If you would like to join the team, contact property administrator Rose James on 01492 650460. Whatever your skills, there’s a place and a welcome here for you!