The team at Bodnant Garden downed tools recently to welcome our 200,000th visitor this year, who was greeted at the gates by staff and volunteers bearing bubbly and cake.
We reached this milestone in a blaze of autumn colour, months ahead of target. It’s the first time in the garden’s 140-year history that visitor numbers have reached this level.
The lucky guests were Samantha and Simon Hardman, and their baby daughter Emily from Sheffield, for whom it was their first visit.
They said: “We came here to Bodnant Garden on a relative’s recommendation. We were expecting a beautiful garden, but we were definitely not anticipating the shower of confetti, the huge cake, the bubbly and the crowd of staff, volunteers and visitors that greeted our arrival! This was our first ever visit to Bodnant Garden, but it won’t be our last – the garden is absolutely magnificent, and the autumn colours are stunning. We will be back, and we’ll be recommending it to all our friends.”
The garden has attracted around 180,000 visitors per year for some years but visitor numbers have been steadily rising since 2013 with the opening of new areas – the Winter Garden, Old Park meadow, Yew Dell and Far End – and new initiatives like dog days, garden events and family activities.
General manager William Greenwood says: “It’s an absolutely amazing achievement and a stunning tribute to so much hard work and dedication in all weathers from our hardworking staff and volunteer team. I can’t thank enough every single one of them.
“I find it difficult to grasp just how many visitors 200,000 really is. Apparently we’d have to empty the Millennium Stadium over 2½ times, and then we’d need 3,175 double decker buses just to bring them all here!”
It’s been a proud moment for everyone at the garden, staff and volunteers, from the gardens to the tearooms and offices:
Ann Smith, Visitor Services Manager
“Having worked at the garden for many years I’ve been privileged to see all the changes and developments as they’ve happened. I’m full of admiration for our gardeners who passionately and creatively work in harmony with nature and often have to battle with the elements. I’ve seen their sorrow when they’ve had to take down a very old tree which has come to the end of its life; their stoicism as they’ve tackled the devastating damage caused by floods and high winds, and their joy when a new area they’ve worked so hard to restore is finally opened to visitors.
“But what I’m most proud of is the commitment and enthusiasm of all staff and volunteers to sharing their love of the garden with visitors, ensuring that they have a fantastic time here, that they come back again and again, and that they become ambassadors for Bodnant Garden. And, clearly it works – reaching this amazing milestone of our 200,000th visitor in under a year is a tangible testament to the dedication and success of the team at Bodnant Garden.”
Mark Morris, gardener
Mark has been working at Bodnant Garden for around 30 years, man and boy, and is font of all knowledge for everyone on the garden team.
He says: I’ve been lucky enough to work with both the third Lord Aberconway and with head gardener Martin Puddle in the 1980s and 1990s. Back then we welcomed around 140,000 visitors a year – we thought that was a lot of people! But Bodnant is a large garden with so many different areas for people to explore and it never feels crowded.
“There have been massive changes in that time, the garden has completely changed – new areas have opened up and the planting which used to be more conservative is now more contemporary – but to me it is equally as magical now as it has always been. This place is who I am. It’s just really pleasing to know more people are now enjoying and appreciating this special place.”
Visitor Services Volunteer Richard Berry
Richard helps meet and greet visitors and organise a whole range of events in the garden. Over the past two years he and fellow ‘Voles’ have been the brains and the brawn behind transforming part of the Old Mill in the Dell into a hub for visitors, including an Elves Workshop in winter. He says: “I love my role as a volunteer working alongside my colleagues in our varied activities and now seeing another achievement in having our 200,000 visitor this year. Another highlight has been to help clean out part of the Old Mill which is now used for family activities and garden presentations.”
Student gardener Jess Mehers
Jess has been at Bodnant Garden for the past year training with the Heritage Horticulture Skills Scheme. She and fellow trainee Jaette Nielson have redesigned and replanted the Vanessa Bed on the Top Lawn, which was decimated by an oak tree which fell in storms of 2013.
Jess says: It’s been such an exciting time to be at Bodnant Garden with new areas opening and new projects going on. It’s been wonderful to work alongside such a vibrant team of skilled gardeners, staff and volunteers, and I’ve loved meeting all the visitors. It’s particularly special to be here for the 200,000th visitor. That’s quite an achievement.”
John Baxendale, Visitor reception assistant
John is one of the team at the ‘frontline’ who welcomes visitors at reception and has been here for around four years. He says: It’s wonderful news to reach 200,000 visitors – we’re just glad they don’t all come on the same day! I get to meet people from all four corners of the world – in many different languages which makes for interesting scenarios! There’s never a dull moment. People are always just amazed by this internationally acclaimed garden. I wouldn’t be here unless I loved it. And I really do love it.”
Michael McLaren, Garden Director
Michael McLaren, of the donor family, said: “I am delighted that this month Bodnant will be welcoming its 200,000th visitor – the first time ever that we have had more than 200,000 visitors in one year. My grandfather, Henry 2nd Lord Aberconway, who gave the garden to the National Trust in 1949 and who more than anyone else was responsible for the creation of the garden, loved seeing visitors appreciating the beauty of the garden and learning about horticulture and garden design. He too would have been thrilled to see this record broken…and with the prospect of further milestones being passed before the end of the year.
“Huge thanks from me and all the donor family to the staff and volunteers who have made this great achievement possible, and particularly to the gardeners for ensuring that the garden looks better than ever.”
Helen MacDonald, tearoom assistant
Helen has worked here for three years, also on the frontline making sure visitors get that leisurely lunch in the bustling tearooms or much-needed snack in the new al-fresco kiosks down in The Dell and Far End.
She says: “It’s a beautiful place to work and I feel very lucky. It gets busy in summer mind you, but I like that. I enjoy meeting all the different people who come in, from all over the world, and having a chat. Some more familiar faces come regularly and pop in to say hello which is nice. 200,000 visitors is quite something.The gardeners do a wonderful job and that’s what people come to see, it’s a real credit to them.”
John Rippin, Head Gardener
John joined the team in January this year, coming from Castle Drogo in Devon, another National Trust property.
He says: “The rich gardening tradition at Bodnant stretches far back into history. When the Statue of Liberty was being dedicated the first giant redwoods were being planted in The Dell. Despite many triumphs and tragedies including two apocalyptic 20th Century world wars that changed the economic and social landscape of this nation, the celebrated team of Bodnant gardeners here have always continued with what gardeners do best – getting on with what they know and love.
“The spirit of resilience and pride continues with the present Bodnant Garden Team and has seen them through their own share of challenges that a garden of this size and significance will always encounter. After years of hard work, change and periods of uncertainty however, the taste of success is always sweeter and more satisfying than if there had been no struggle.
“I believe the 200,000th visitor marks and important moment in time for the team at Bodnant Garden; it says categorically that the dedication and painstaking attention to detail of the garden team employs in their every-day work is greatly appreciated. Perhaps more importantly it says that the ongoing creative revitalisation of the garden and the opening of new areas has been hugely successful with our visitors and is a winning formula we can all celebrate.
“I’m glad that Bodnant gardeners have been able to step away from their beautiful borders, streams and glades today to take part in the occasion and albeit briefly to reflect on the magnitude of the moment with a renewed sense of satisfaction of a job well done.”
“Quite simply Bodnant Garden is paradise on Earth. Sublime, restful and inventive twelve months a year it has earnt its place as one of the very best of the world’s gardens.”
“I want to thank the McLaren family not just for the wonderful gift to the nation of Bodnant Garden, a masterpiece they created and nurtured, but also for continuing inspiration and vision that their close involvement brings to its success. 200,000 visitors is a genuine milestone, and I am so proud that we have achieved it without losing the essential tranquillity and wonder of the Bodnant Garden experience.”
“As Director for Wales I am not allowed to have a favourite place, but for me Bodnant represents the very best that the Trust has to offer. A great beauty, a long history of invention, partnership with the family that gave us the garden and most of all extraordinary staff and volunteers who deliver great experiences to everyone who visits.”
“I challenge anyone not to fall in love with Bodnant Garden, well done to all the staff and volunteers on reaching this historic milestone, and most importantly giving so many people such wonderful experiences in the Welsh paradise.”
For more details about Bodnant Garden call 01492 650460, check out our website nationaltrust.org.uk/bodnant-garden or catch up with us on Facebook or Twitter.