Snapshot of Trust’s conservation work on show at the National Eisteddfod

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It’s been typical British festival weather – sunshine and showers in equal measure – for the National Eisteddfod on Anglesey this week.

We’ve been there with a National Trust Wales stand, showcasing the range of conservation work that we do across properties, coast and countryside in North West Wales. Staff and volunteers have powered through rain and mud, and basked in spells of glorious sunshine too, meeting visitors, making friends and sharing our work. Here’s a snapshot of what we’ve been up to:

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Our Bodnant Garden team opened the week-long event with a meadows theme – a slice of Old Park turf with wildlife spotting activities for children, alongside a bee keeping display from Bug Life.

We handed over on Tuesday to Tŷ Mawr Wybrnant who exhibited an original copy of the Welsh bible, with calligraphy activity and bible history sessions; on Wednesday it was the turn of Penrhyn Castle who showcased their Artist in Residency exhibition; on Thursday there was a talk from this year’s Eisteddfod chair maker and traditional skill demonstrations by Felin Uchaf; on Friday and Saturday the red squirrels of Plas Newydd, Môn & Menai are the focus of attention.

There are also activities going on outside the tent area throughout the week; a yurt providing a Cemlyn bird hide experience (through the power of video), a traditional fishing boat from Aberdaron on display, a seal sculpture – a big hit with children – and demonstrations of Snowdonian footpath making.

The event couldn’t have happened without support of our staff and volunteers, to whom we say a massive Diolch yn Fawr! The Eisteddfod continues until Saturday (August 12) so if you have chance, go along and sample a great day of Welsh culture.

For more details about Bodnant Garden call 01492 650460, check out our website nationaltrust.org.uk/bodnant-garden or find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

 

Bodnant’s Bath cleans up at horticulture awards

We did it again! Bodnant Garden has won another industry award for horticultural excellence. The garden team’s transformation of The Bath has been named Best Garden Restoration and Development Project 2017, by Horticulture Week magazine.

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An award-winning tropical garden from Bill Warrell, Graeme Jones, Harvey Baker, Roger Chesters and Lynne Clifton

Our Visitors Services team also made the final five for a volunteering award, giving Bodnant Garden two moments in the spotlight among a host of renowned UK organisations. (Another award should have gone to gardener Lynne Clifton for fastest sprint to the podium to collect the certificate – despite some pre-event nerves, there was just no holding her back!)

19429680_1482825888431615_6517026061134862382_nLynne travelled to the awards at Woburn Abbey Sculpture Gallery on June 28th to represent the Glades garden team, along with events officer Charlie Stretton representing the Laburnum Archers and myself (Fran, garden media officer). It was a long day on many trains, but rewarded by great company and the pleasure of seeing Bodnant Garden showcased among the horticultural cream of the nation.

Horticulture Week is a leading industry magazine found in garden mess rooms up and down the land. Their Custodian Awards 2017 received entries from wide-ranging organisations from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Thiepval, to bodies such as the National Trust, English Heritage, Woodland Trust, as well as council parks and private gardens.

Nominations were judged by independent panel of judges including Tony Arnold, chair of the Professional Gardeners Guild, Sally Drury, technical editor of Horticulture Week, Sue Ireland former open spaces director of the City of London, gardens consultant Alan Sargent and arboriculture expert Dave Lofthouse. Presenting the awards, Lord Michael Heseltine spoke about the importance of gardens and green space and how they could transform disadvantaged communities.

joe2-bodnant-garden-the-bath-in-october-10.jpgBodnant Garden won the category Best Garden Restoration and Development Project, for The Bath (seen above, last September) The tropical redesign by former supervisor Bill Warrell and the team beat off competition from projects at Quarry Bank National Trust and Compton Verney House Trust.

Bill, now head gardener at our NT neighbours Plas Newydd and Penrhyn Castle, was over the moon at the news when tweeted and sent congratulations to his old muckers. He added: “I am delighted for the team at Bodnant Garden that they have received this prestigious award. It is wonderful recognition for all the hard work that went in to making the renovation of the Bath a success.”

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Our Laburnum Archers (seen above) was shortlisted for the Best Community/Volunteer Project, alongside Hardwick Hall (National Trust), Audley End (English Heritage) and Woburn Abbey – the award going to Woodland Trust for Observatree, a project which created a tree health early warning system for tree pests and diseases using citizen science.

Stiff competition…in fact surveying the organisations present at the ceremony, Bodnant Garden has cause to be proud. Having won the Horticulture Week awards in 2016 for the renovation of the Far End we’re now on a roll and aiming for the hat-trick next time!

For more details about Bodnant Garden call 01492 650460, check out our website nationaltrust.org.uk/bodnant-garden or find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

Becky’s helping the helpers at Bodnant Garden #VolunteersWeek

Welcome to Becky Hitchens, Bodnant Garden’s new volunteer co-ordinator. If you’re thinking of volunteering with us, look no further…

IMG_6246Becky has worked with National Trust volunteers for six years, as Visitor Services Manager at Lanhydrock in Cornwall and Visitor and Volunteering Experience Manager at Dyrham Park.

Her role at Bodnant Garden will be all about making the experience as a volunteer even better, and recruiting more (yes, more!) members to the 120-strong team. It’s a new position created because of the growth of the garden in recent years – with the opening of new areas, new refreshment facilities, extended opening times and a bigger events programme.

Becky says: “As the garden gets more popular with visitors, we need additional support from volunteers in roles like car parking, giving guided tours and helping with queue management, to make sure that visitors have a great day. As the garden itself grows we need more volunteer gardeners to help with the ever growing list of gardening tasks – imagine weeding 80 acres by yourself!”

As we get more volunteers we need more support in managing and supporting volunteers too, from simple things like making sure everyone gets a name badge and making sure everyone gets a cuppa at break time, to planning work rotas.

“I’m also going to be looking at what other opportunities there are for volunteers here,” says Becky. “Many volunteers have enormous skill-sets and there are lots of ways for people to get involved. We’ll be looking at ways in which we can offer opportunities to different groups too, such as students looking for work experience or families that want to volunteer together, as well as looking at whether there are any opportunities for volunteers to learn new skills.”

Here’s just some of our Bodnant Garden volunteers at work:

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Becky has walked the walk, having been a volunteer herself as a student – in Truro Cathedral, The Royal Cornwall Museum, Bristol City Museum, the Oriental Museum in Durham and many other museums.

She says: “I learnt various skills as a volunteer, but the most important thing was learning to talk to people, from customers to directors, and the experience really helped me when starting out with my career.

“My proudest moment working with volunteers was the day we opened the roof-top experience at Dyrham Park. I recruited 90 new volunteers to be ‘roof guides’ and it was a new experience for me, having never managed a walkway suspended over a building site before! We all worked together to learn about roofing techniques, scaffolding, stonework and worked out a plan for how we’d show the visitors all the best bits of the roof. The day we opened was fantastic because it went so smoothly and the visitors really enjoyed it.

“I love working with volunteers. The amount of knowledge and the skills that volunteers bring is astounding and I feel lucky that I get to work with such generous, wonderful people every day.”

Across the National Trust we’re lucky enough to have more than 60,000 fantastic volunteers, who lend their time and provide vital support for the work we do. This #VolunteersWeek (1 – 7 June) we’re celebrating every single person who help us to care for hundreds of special places all across the country.

For more information see our website http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/bodnant-garden or visit http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/features/get-stuck-in-for-volunteers-week

 

 

Big hug for our Bodnant volunteers

Keeping the 80 acres of Bodnant Garden pristine and welcoming for visitors takes a lot of people-power and volunteers are the lifeblood of the team. It’s national #VolunteersWeek from June 1 to 7, so we’re celebrating Bodnant’s brilliant band of helpers.

IMG_6270We’re blessed here with around 120 volunteers who give a dizzying array of skills – from gardening to teaching to carpentry and everything in between – across a range of roles.

IMG_6246We now have a new volunteer co-ordinator too, to help support our helpers. Becky Hitchens joined Bodnant Garden this month. Becky has worked with National Trust volunteers for six years, as Visitor Services Manager at Lanhydrock in Cornwall and Visitor and Volunteering Experience Manager at Dyrham Park. She’ll now be co-ordinating our own growing team.

And what a team. Bodnant Garden ‘vols’ support us in all aspects of our work as national conservation charity, giving back-up to the everyday work of our staff teams. They also enable us to take on large scale projects like opening new parts of the garden…and turn their hands to just about every unexpected eventuality that comes along on a daily basis, whether it’s providing First Aid to injured wildlife, or helping reunite lost children with parents.

Visitor Services volunteers meet and greet coach parties, help with guided tours, assist with garden events from weddings to falconry displays, do carpentry and maintenance, run storytelling and pond dipping for children – and much more:

Richard and Tabitha preparing conkers for autumn activities; student teacher Elizabeth helping with family events; Dave our Chief Christmas Elf; student Gethin, our events and social media assistant; guide Steve (who went above and beyond the call of duty recently, growing an explorer’s beard for our Planthunter’s Tent; and Carol manning our off-site Bodnant Garden display at Llandudno prom.

They have also been the driving force behind refurbishing the Old Mill in The Dell – transforming it into an indoor space which is now a hub for meetings, workshops and children’s events and a venue for the hugely popular Elves’ Workshop at Christmas time.

Our garden volunteers muck in with the team and help with all aspects of daily routine maintenance, whether that’s in the beds and borders, inside the nursery or even in the office engraving labels and cataloguing our plant collection:

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Joy and Karen and preparing the Far End for opening; Keith our plant label supremo; and garden volunteers being filmed for BBC Gardener’s World in 2016

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Garden volunteers have also played a big part in enabling us to renovate and open new areas of the garden to the public in the last few years, such as the Yew Dell, Far End and, most recently, Furnace Wood and Meadow in spring 2017.

As well as helping Bodnant Garden, volunteering offers great opportunities for you too. Whether you are retired and eager to put your skills to use in the community, or in work, looking for work or studying and looking for new experiences and to meet new people.

As well as the chance to work in the beautiful surroundings of one of Britain’s most famous gardens, as a volunteer you get free entry to National Trust properties in the UK and a discount card for National Trust outlets. You’ll have the opportunity to attend to regular meetings and play a full part in planning – and of course get to go to the ‘office’ Christmas party.

Whether you can help for a fixed time such as holiday periods, or for regular days each week, we’d love to hear from you. Training and support is provided, just contact Becky here at Bodnant Garden, on becky.hitchens@nationaltrust.org.uk for more details.

For more details about Bodnant Garden call 01492 650460, check out our website nationaltrust.org.uk/bodnant-garden or find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

Big opening for #BodnantGardenFurnace

Pictures paint a thousand words…so we hope you enjoy this little round-up of our big opening day for Furnace Wood and Meadow, in full, glorious colour: 

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ME =)Many of the images were taken by our volunteer Gethin here, who was duty photographer for the day, and by other staff and volunteers. They capture what a fantastic, frenetic and fun day it was from beginning to end…from the early round of media crews in the morning, the VIP speeches and the chainsaw opening ceremony, through to a sunny afternoon of trails, crafts and daffodil planting, closing with the mass devouring of a truly gigantic cake. I feel a caption competition coming on…

If you have images of the day to share we’d love to see them and include them in our photo gallery – send them to us marked #BodnantGardenFurnace.

For more details about Bodnant Garden call 01492 650460, check out our website nationaltrust.org.uk/bodnant-garden or find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

 

Have pith helmet, will plant hunt

downloadWe’ve dusted off the pith helmets this half term for a trail and exhibition to celebrate a famous plant hunter close to Bodnant Garden’s heart… and maybe inspire a new generation of explorers.

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Ernest ‘Chinese’ Wilson was a botanist at the turn of the 20th century. A passionate plantsman, he graduated from Birmingham Botanical Gardens to travel inhospitable regions of China, bringing back to Britain the seeds of exotic trees, shrubs and flowers. In the early 1900s Lord Aberconway of Bodnant was a sponsor of the expeditions by Wilson and other plant hunters, which filled our garden with thousands of ‘new’ plants.

These plants – from magnificent UK Champion Trees to lilies, clematis and poppies – now form part of our historic, horticultural collection. Many have tales to tell; Wilson having encountered avalanche, war, disease and all manner of adversity to bring them to Bodnant Garden. And so, inspired by Wilson’s spirit of adventure, we’ve recreated an expedition of our own to inspire our younger visitors (but with the Health and Safety aspects covered.)

Ernest’s Tree Treasure Trail takes families around the garden tracking some of Wilson’s discoveries – which can be found in the living form of trees and shrubs, some more then a century old, grown from seeds brought back from his travels.

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A mature Handkerchief Tree at Bodnant Garden

One of the most famous is the Handkerchief Tree (Davidia involucrata) which Wilson tracked down against the odds. This tree, with its delicate, paper-tissuey ivory flowers, had been first spotted by French botanist Armand David in 1869. His specimens were lost when his ship sank on the return journey. Tasked by Veitch Nursery in 1899 to find the tree, the 22-year-old Wilson set off armed with just a simple cross on a hand drawn map covering hundreds of square miles of the Yunnan region of China.

Find the spot he did – only to discover the tree had been felled. However he continued searching and found a grove of more, from which he collected a batch of the large, hard-shelled seeds. Back home at Veitch Nursery, gardeners sowed the seeds, but a couple of years later threw them onto a compost heap when they failed to germinate. The following year the precious seedlings popped up through the compost – and some were despached to Bodnant Garden where they have thrived.

Our tree trail takes in these and other Wilson finds, leading to the Old Mill in The Dell which has been transformed by events officer Charlie Stretton and our volunteers into an expedition base camp. Here children can see what life was like for intrepid explorers like Wilson, warm up in front of the ‘camp fire’ and collect their own Davidia seeds to take home and grow.

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The exhibition will remain in the Old Mill after half term, including pictures and stories from Wilson’s life and work. Come along and find out more about his incredible legacy which can be seen at Bodnant Garden throughout the year.

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Bodnant Garden events and engagement officer Charlie with our Handkerchief Tree seeds

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Young volunteer Gethin tending to some of Wilson’s plants

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Young visitors enjoying the base camp in the Old Mill…especially trying on the pith helmets and Wilson moustache

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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.

Spring into action with volunteering at Bodnant Garden

Bodnant Garden is growing – and needs you! We’re making a spring appeal for volunteers to help nurture new garden areas and to tend our rising number of visitors. It’s an amazing time to be at Bodnant Garden…can we tempt you?

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Spring at the Far End, taken by our former (much missed!) volunteer photographer Phil Rogers

In the last five years we’ve opened around 30 acres of the garden which were formerly private. We’re taking down the ropes on a further 20 acres, Furnace Hill, later this spring and there are more new areas to open in the next couple of years. Signs are we’re also on target this year to welcome our highest-ever number of visitors – expected to be nearly 250,000 people through the gates by March.

So as the season bursts into life we’re hoping to recruit a spring task force. It’s a great opportunity to join us at a really exciting time – to get out and meet new people, use your skills or gain new ones, and of course to spend time in a breath-taking beautiful garden.

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Volunteers helping in the garden and running family events

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National Trust volunteers provide vital support to the work of the conservation charity. Bodnant Garden has around 120 volunteers, who give their time regularly or occasionally, to help the garden team and visitor services team.Our existing team have an incredible range of skills and help us with a whole host of things, from gardening to carpentry to photography, from giving guided walks to grown-ups to storytelling sessions for children.

Their hard work has helped Bodnant Garden to unveil almost 30 acres formerly closed to the public over the last five years; in 2012 the Winter Garden, in 2013 the Old Park meadow, in 2014 the Yew Dell and in 2015 the Far End riverside garden. From April visitors will also be able to explore Furnace Wood and Meadow, and this will be followed by the opening of Cae Poeth Meadow in 2018 and the Heather Hill in 2020.

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In 2015 volunteers provided the support enabling us to open the Far End lakeside – by gardening and assisting visitors to the new area

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Last year we recruited a new team of volunteers called The Laburnum Archers, to help during our busiest time in June when the famous Laburnum Arch is in flower.

Charlie Stretton, Bodnant Garden events and engagement officer, says: “The Laburnum Archers project was a huge success. We had a brilliant mix of people; the youngest was 15, the oldest 74, and their backgrounds ranged from students to retired people (including a retired Wing Commander.) They were invaluable during our busiest time and out of 20 volunteers who signed up for a short period, 15 have stayed on as permanent volunteers.

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Our young volunteer Gethin,  who helps us run family activities during school holidays,  and turns his hands to social media too

“We’re gearing up for another busy spring, with the opening of Furnace in April. Whether you’d like to dip a toe in and help for a few days, a few weeks, or would like to join us in a more permanent role; whether you’d like to get your hands dirty in the garden or help meet and greet visitors, give us a call. The hilly terrain can be challenging for some people but we welcome all abilities and can find a place in the garden that’s right for you. All volunteers will get training and support – and our eternal gratitude!”

Contact Charlie at charlotte.stretton@nationaltrust.org.uk 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.

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Last summer our volunteers supported us hosting a textile exhibition by North Wales Embroiderers’ Guild – a first for the garden