Toasting Bodnant Garden’s solar success

UPDATE: It’s official, National Trust Wales and friends scooped the Community award!

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At Bodnant Garden’s Pavilion tearoom, Thomas and Gareth Jones from Carbon Zero, William Greenwood, Bodnant Garden manager, and Alex Turrell, NT environmental practices advisor

Bodnant Garden is in the running for a major national energy award – for our solar-powered tearoom.

It’s one of three pioneering renewable energy projects for National Trust Wales which are being recognised at the British Renewable Energy Awards (BREA) on Thursday, June 15. We’re shortlisted in the Pioneer, Community Group and Outstanding Project award categories at the awards ceremony at The Savoy Hotel in London.

Keith Jones, National Trust Wales environmental adviser, says: “We are thrilled to be nominated for three awards, including one of only two shortlisted organisations for the main overall Pioneer Award.”

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Gareth Jones of Carbon Zero and Paul Southall, NT advisor

Bodnant Garden’s £100,000 solar array scheme, installed by Carbon Zero, is a contender for the Outstanding Project Award. Keith says: “The stunning 50kw solar system installed on a curved hillside on the car park of the Grade I listed garden is a first of its type for the National Trust.

“We took an informed gamble and draped the PV on half an acre of hillside, while ensuring that the system would be organic in form, super-efficient in practice and be an attraction in itself for the world-renowned garden’s annual 250,000 visitors.

“It involved picking a cable route through the myriad of ancient oaks and using micro diggers and elbow grease to get the cable through.

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Our solar system alsa powers an electric charging point in the car park

“The system is now viewed as art and engineering.  It has already been judged one of the top five PV systems in the world, purely on how it looks. Being listed with globally significant systems shows that we have done something special here. It has pricked the imagination of what is possible without having to spend millions of pounds.”

Also nominated is a network of five community energy companies, called Cyd Ynni (Energy Together), which has been shortlisted for the Community Group Award. The companies support each other to develop renewable energy projects so that they can make their own electricity from hydro power and have so far delivered three hydros, of 270kw, 100kw and 50kw.

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Hooray for green energy. Keith Jones at the National Trust’s Hafod y Llan hydro in Snowdonia

“The organisation is based in the old slate valleys around Llanberis and Bethesda, in one of the poorest areas in Wales with some of the highest fuel poverty rates in UK and the oldest housing stock in Europe,” explains Keith. “It has piloted and now operates the first end-to-end energy supply co-operative in the UK. One pilot in Bethesda is supplying local houses with local energy, saving householders on average 30% off their bills.

“We are empowering people. The network successfully crowd-sourced £700,000 in eight weeks for the two projects by working together. The vision is to work together to make our communities sustainable and make the place fit for future generations.”

National Trust Wales has another eight hydros in feasibility, an anaerobic digester, a wind turbine, one large PV solar array and several more multiple generator local supply projects developing. Bodnant has also now installed a solar array at the Far End of the garden, to power the refreshment kiosk there, and is developing its use of renewable energy all around the property.

For more information about our green energy initiatives see our website http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/bodnant-garden and http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/features/green-energy-in-wales

 

 

 

Floral colour to beat the January blues

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and you never have to look very far for it at Bodnant Garden, even in the depths of winter. Here’s just some of the colourful and scented blooms you can enjoy right now:

…and of course, spot the first snowdrops!

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Galanthus ‘Ophelia’

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.

A Christmas cheer for Bodnant Garden’s very own little helpers

We’re tidying up the tinsel after our best and busiest ever Elves’ Workshop in the Old Mill. We’ve waved goodbye and ‘Happy Christmas’ to hundreds of young visitors, who have left the garden happy, armed with hand-made Christmas decorations, and filled with a warm glow of pride and hot chocolate.

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It’s hard to believe that only four years ago this cosy ‘log cabin’ deep in the woods in The Dell used to be a cold, dark, dusty old storeroom, home only to spiders and garden tools. It’s been magically transformed into a Christmas emporium by some very special Santa’s helpers – otherwise known as our Bodnant Garden volunteers.

Once upon a time Bodnant Garden used to close to visitors through the winter. Then, in 2012, we stayed open for the season to unveil our new Winter Garden. This had been four years in the creation and was instantly a big hit with garden-lovers. We also opened our gates for the first time to dog walkers, giving visitors another reason to enjoy coming to Bodnant Garden during the dark winter months.

Then, the following year, our volunteers came up with the bright idea of turning part of the Old Mill into a Christmas activity room for families.

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The mill on the east bank of the River Hiraethlyn must be one of the most photographed parts of our garden. A Grade 2 listed building, it was built around 1837, harnessing water to turn the wheels of the estate flourmill and then the estate sawmill.

It has long been out of service and closed to the public; beautiful but redundant, awaiting renovation. However, volunteers Richard Berry and Dave Horsley took the initiative to spruce-up one of the rooms which had been used as a garden tool store. And so with a lot of elbow grease and some pixie dust – plus some cones and holly for decoration, logs for seating and a brazier for warmth – it was reborn as our first Elves’ Workshop in 2013.

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Humble beginnings…our volunteers sprucing-up the mill workshop

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Since then our volunteers have taken pride in making the event more special each year. The experience now begins with a lights and ribbon trail leading families down through the garden to the mill. There, they are welcomed into the workshop decked with greenery provided by gardeners and dressed up with added ribbons, bows and sparkle by our volunteers. Craft tables are laden with goodies and elf helpers are on hand to help children make Christmas decorations (this year our ranger Doug cut and drilled hundreds and hundreds of birch discs which the children loved decorating.)

Families at this year’s Elves’ Workshop

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After their craft session children can join Chief Elves Dave and Richard (seen below) toasting marshmallows on the brazier outside and enjoy hot chocolate and Santa cookies provided  by our catering team.

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The popular craft-making, based on nature themes, is masterminded by our events officer Charlie Stretton. Richard, Dave and the volunteer team work tirelessly through December to make sure everything runs smoothly; that we have goody bags, reindeer food, Christmas lights, and other things too numerous to mention, which make it such a special time for all the families.

Judging by the comment cards, families love it. Here are just some of the comments that are music to our ears as we sweep up the pine needles and pipe cleaners:

“Really enjoyed the elves workshop, great crafts kit, great atmosphere and even better singing from the elves.”

“Fantastic all round.  Lovely activity for Christmas and some wonderful keepsakes. Liked toasting marshmallows, having a great time painting pine cones.” 

“We are members and come all year round, but always come in December to the elf craft workshop, never miss it!”

The make-over of the Old Mill isn’t just for Christmas. The revamp by volunteers has turned the space into a cosy all-year round hub for visitors which serves as a meeting place for talks, workshops and an indoor seating area for refreshments.

The Elves’ Workshop is a free event – though donations are welcome and all the money given this year will go towards our #BodnantFountainAppeal to replace the crumbling fountain on the Croquet Terrace. So we’d like to say a GIANT thank-you to our volunteers for making all the elf magic happen and to all who came along and joined us in the fun – your support helps us look after the nation’s special places, For Ever For Everyone. And that’s all we want for Christmas!

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Bodnant Garden is closed Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day but open again from December 27, with 80 acres of winter walks to explore. 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.

 

Bodnant Garden in glorious technicolor textiles

Nature stirs our senses, our imaginations and inspires us to create in so many different artforms. This month we’re welcoming North Wales Embroiderers’ Guild to the garden who are celebrating our trees, plants and flowers through the tactile medium of textiles.

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Water lilies at Bodnant Garden by Beryl Trimby

During the festival of Trees and Textile, Fabric and Flowers (from August 20 to September 8) places around the garden will adorned by members’ work inspired by Bodnant Garden’s history and flora.

Charlie Stretton, Bodnant Garden events and engagement officer, says: “We’re really looking forward to welcoming the guild, whose talented members are modern, innovative and creative. It’s a pleasure to be able to showcase their work, which we hope will inspire visitors too.”

Guild members have been busy working on their exhibits since early this year. They will be displaying fabric works large and small around the Far End lakeside, at the Pin Mill on the terraces and the Old Mill in the Dell.

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Guild members Carol and Sian keeping their felting piece under wraps and (below) Ronny placing marino wool ready for felting.  They are working on pieces for a tree near the garden entrance. 

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Our beautiful Far End has really captured people’s imaginations since it opened in spring 2015. Its tranquil lake, with a richness of plants and wildlife, has also inspired guild members who are working together on a number of large fabric designs to be displayed there. One will transform the island at the Skating Pond, another will be sited in the cluster of alder trees at the edge of the lake and another at the Boat House; they will create bright, eye-catching works reflecting the flora and fauna to be found there in the garden.

 Wildlife which will be displayed on the island at the Far End, and laburnum which will hang in alder trees nearby

There will also be individual pieces, such as one created by Vicky Williams. She is hard at work producing a fabric hanging for the Pin Mill (seen below), inspired by a photograph she took in the garden last June showing foxgloves growing on the Lower Rose Terrace.

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It’s hoped that the works will encourage visitors young and old to view parts of the garden with a new eye, but as well as following the trail of textile art around the garden people will also be able to get hands-on, and try lace and felt making in the Old Mill on August 25 (11am to 3pm.)

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Marilyn Smith from the guild says: “There will be a good mixture of techniques used in the exhibits from felting, hand and machine embroidery, weaving and the use of recycled materials, a good combination of traditional and modern with lots of variety.  There are approximately 20 members contributing work, some have been working on their own creations and others have been working in small teams.

“We are all very excited to be given the opportunity to become part of Bodnant for this period. It comes of course with its challenges being outdoors, so fingers crossed that the weather will be kind!”

You can find out more from the North Wales Embroiderers’ Guild – a thriving group of more than 100 members who aim to build awareness of stitch and textile art. Check out their colourful Facebook page for more information at www.facebook.com/northwalesembroiderersguild

Wysteria  by Linda Beagan to go in the alders at the Far End

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.

Whopper of a week at Bodnant Garden

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We’ve got that Friday Feeling, and some – celebrating our busiest ever week in more than 140 years of the garden’s history.

Numbers just out show that we welcomed a record 20,000-plus visitors through the gates in the first week of June – that’s more than half what was achieved in the whole of the same month last year.

General manager William Greenwood said: “Crowds have flocked to see the famous Laburnum Arch in spectacular June sunshine. Families have enjoyed a packed programme of half term events and dog owners have made the most of late night openings to walk in the garden.

“It’s been phenomenal and there’s been a real holiday atmosphere here. It’s an extraordinary achievement and shows how much and how fast the garden is developing, with things to be see and do every day of the year.”

June brings a crescendo of late spring colour at Bodnant Garden, from exotic rhododendrons to native bluebells and a riot of blossom, all crowned by the show-stopping Laburnum Arch, a 55-metre long pergola walkway of golden flowers.

Last week’s numbers averaged 363 visitors every hour, rising to more than 700 visitors per hour at peak times. The garden also received more than 7,000 visitors over the weekend – another record – and enjoyed its best-ever late night opening, with more than 500 evening visitors – many of those bringing their dogs for Wag Wednesday walkies.

William said: “This year we’ve pulled out all the stops to make the June experience a memorable one for everyone, opening the garden gates early, and late, and offering breakfasts in the tearoom for early birds.

“We’ve also recruited a team of special volunteers, Laburnum Archers, to help visitors coming here for the flowering spectacle, which normally attracts around 50,000 people over three weeks in June …but the way things are going we could well break that record by the end of the month too!”

We recently unveiled plans to open a new area, which has attracted great public and media interest. Furnace Hill is 20 acres of woodland and meadow which is being renovated for opening to the public in spring 2017.

Further areas are being opened in the next few years which will bring the ropes down on most of the 80-acre garden; the Far End was opened to the public in 2015, Yew Dell in 2014, Old Park meadow in 2013 and Winter Garden in 2012.

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.

In the holiday mood at Bodnant Garden

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It’s a Bank Holiday weekend, the beginning of half term, the Laburnum Arch is ready to burst into flower at Bodnant Garden and all is well with the world.

As spring moves into early summer the garden is a kaleidoscope of colour. The rhododendrons for which we are world famous are at their dazzling peak, trees and shrubs are loaded with leaf and blossom, herbaceous beds filling out with iris, lilies, Himalayan primulas and poppies, and the roses are beginning to swell, giving a hint of what’s to follow.

Our wildlife is full of the joys of early summer too. The garden is alive with bees, butterflies and birsdsong right now and you can almost hear the patter (and splash) of tiny feet – we have a new family of goslings on the lake at the Far End and froglets hatching out alongside the ponds.

It’s a lovely time to visit the garden and we have a host of activities this half term week for youngsters (plus plenty to keep the grown-ups happy too):

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Alliums on the Range, by visitor Julie Pigula

May 28-June 5 Fairies, Feet and Flying: Build a little house in our fairy village and try a barefoot walk in the Old Park. No extra charge, all self led activities, from 10-4pm.

May 31 Pond dipping: 12-3pm (free, no booking)

May 31 Poem open day: Take a look inside the beautiful mausoleum in The Glades (no extra charge)

June 1 Minibeast Adventure: Hunt for bugs, with sessions at 11am, 12 and 2pm (free, no booking)

June 5 Music in the Pin Mill: Coastal Voices Choir, 2-4pm

Early doors: The garden is open from 9am in May and June for the Laburnum Arch and spring floral display, and until 8pm on Wednesday evenings. During this time the Pavilion tearoom will also be offering breakfasts, from 9am, for early visitors.

Woof Wednesdays: Dogs welcome every Wednesday evening 5-8pm, from May to the end of August.

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.

Pin Mill Flower Poll

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Last year you loved our experimental wildflower border next to the Pin Mill – so we’ve decided to do it again, on both sides of the Canal Terrace, and this time around YOU get to choose the flower display. 

We’ve got five annual meadow seed mixes to choose from. Each colour mix has its own champions here at Bodnant Garden who are desperate for your vote.

You can vote here for your favourite or, if you’re visiting the garden, drop in a token at the collection point at The Pin Mill. Gardeners will be sowing the seed after Easter. You’ve got a week, until the close of Monday, March 28, to cast your votes…then come back and watch the flowers grow.

National Trust garden adviser Patrick Swan: My choice would be the Classic Mix.  A wide range of species provides an early splash of red, white and blue, with traditional red poppies, miniature blue snapdragon flowers of Linaria and a haze of white Ami majus; just in time for the Queen’s 90th birthday celebrations!  Later in the year the yellows and golds of Rudbeckia and Coreopsis appear for a late summer finale.

Gardener RosI would choose the Candy Mix. It is a good alternative to last year’s Pastel mix and it’s always exciting to try something different. I love the predominantly orange and purple colour combination that is eye-catching without being gaudy. These fresh and inspiring colours will work really well on the Canal Terrace.

Gardener Tracy: I would love to see the Sundance Mix chosen for its exciting burst of orange and yellow. This will contrast beautifully with the dark green yew hedges and visitors will love the vivid and cheerful colours.

General manager William: I’ll go with the Pastel Mix. It’s a delightful “strawberries and cream” theme and a perfect choice against a yew hedge or reflecting off the water. Throughout the long flowering season whites and pinks with just a little scattering of clear blue and other pastels dominate. A really impressive mix in the autumn as later strong pink and pastel colours just go on and on.

Head gardener John: I am immediately drawn to the Aqua Mix. With the iconic white Pin Mill and the peaceful water of the canal this blue and white mix would create a cool but classy ribbon of colour, perfectly reflecting the serenity and simplicity of the setting (and the butterflies and bees will also be very happy).

Gardeners will be sowing the seed after Easter. You’ve got a week, until the close of Friday, March 25, to cast your votes…then all will be revealed!