We hope you’ve been enjoying the new BBC series Glorious Gardens from Above which is on now – and are looking forward to the episode featuring Bodnant Garden.
The 15-part show, presented by horticulturalist and broadcaster Christine Walkden, shows some of Britain’s finest gardens (including several National Trust gems) as never seen before, filmed from the air. It also has a down to earth side…looking behind the grandeur and aristocratic history of these stately places and talking to ‘ordinary’ people about what the gardens mean to them.
Behind the scenes, the making of the show was as fascinating as the programme itself. A BBC crew spent several days at Bodnant Garden filming but a huge amount went on in preparation before the cameras rolled and after they had departed in the editing stages.
In the spring a telephone call came from the BBC inviting Bodnant Garden to be involved in the show, triggering several weeks of liaison between us and television researchers, who had to map out the plot and script of the show in great detail to ensure everything went smoothly during the very time consuming and expensive process of filming. It also triggered a search for stars. The programme required local people with special love or connection to the garden – and they had to be willing to be interviewed on camera! It’s one thing loving Bodnant Garden, as many of us do…but going on national telly to talk about it is another.
Once we had found our stars an advance party from the BBC came to recce the garden, plan locations for filming and do a dummy run of interviewing gardener Fiona Braithwaite, volunteer Phylis Davies and local craftsman Andrew Lloyd. As the week of filming approached there were daily rain checks to decide whether the hot air balloon would be a goer…it was on, and off, and on, and off again…sadly the balloon did not get off the ground at Bodnant in the end but a clever helicam was used instead to get some amazing shots of the garden from the air.
The first day of filming didn’t begin well, but with torrential rain and the BBC team spent many hours in the Pavilion tearoom formulating a Plan B. Thankfully the sun came out in the afternoon and cameras rolled. Over the course of several days filming it was all hands to the pump as staff and volunteers helped out ferrying film makers and equipment, answering queries, standing by to erect scaffolding, even on one occasion releasing BBC guests who became locked into the garden at the end of a very long day.
Visitors enjoyed seeing the process and many stopped to watch, chat to the crew and say hello to Christine, who was down to earth, warm and a bundle of energy and enthusiasm.
All the time and effort that went in to filming the programme at Bodnant Garden is even more remarkable when you consider that we were one of 15 episodes! So a big thank you to Christine and the BBC crew, and to our stars Fiona, Phylis and Andrew who braved the cameras. All that remains is to say don’t miss it -there have been one or two changes in the TV schedules but Bodnant Garden’s episode is definitely (we think) on Wednesday, November 19, on BBC1 at 3.45pm.