50 Things To Do (and some) as a Bodnant Garden volunteer

Bodnant (ProfilePic)Hi, I’m Gethin; I’m 15 years old, and a volunteer here at Bodnant Garden. I’ve been volunteering for just over a year, and wow, what a journey it has been! It all started in August 2015. As part of my 6-month volunteering section for my Bronze Duke of Edinburgh Award I begun helping out with the National Trust kids’ events programme – 50 Things To Do Before You’re 11¾.

From the first second, I knew I was going to enjoy it. The activity was pond dipping in the Far End, catching all sorts of creatures and finding out interesting facts about them. I was also helping with the wild art activity where you create pictures out of twigs, leaves, petals and other natural things. I was involved in making little dragonflies out of pipe cleaners and beads too. The creations were incredible!

Bodnant - Halloween (October 2015)

After all the summer activities had finished, it was time to start thinking about October Half Term. We decorated the Old Mill with spooky decorations for Halloween and, as it was also national ‘Wild about Gardens’ Week, I made hundreds of hedgehog houses, thousands of spiders and bats from clay, and enough bird cake pots to feed all the birds in the UK! There was a lovely log fire in the brazier outside too.

Bodnant - Christmas Elves (December 2015) (2)

Then as we were beginning to recover from the excitement of Halloween, it was time for Christmas (my favourite time of year.) So out came the Christmas tree, the lights and elf costumes and a name change – I was now Elf Zippypickle! The Old Mill was like something out of Winter Wonderland and looked amazing. Outside the fire was back, keeping everyone warm during the coldest time of the year.

Bodnant - Christmas Elves (December 2015)

As part of the activities we helped children find their elf name, by using their first initial and the month they were born in (the best ones were Zippy Picklepants and Englebert Humperdinck). The dragonflies had made a return, but this time, they were sparkly. We also decorated pinecones with paint, glitter and pompoms (I think the dads enjoyed this activity more than some of the children…) and we toasted marshmallows on the log fire – delicious!

Bodnant - Pond Dipping (April 2016)

Then Christmas was over, the elves had gone back to the North Pole, and the New Year had passed…hello 2016! February half term was the next thing to look forward to; it was Pick-a-Stick Week so we did pond dipping with bamboo nets and created homes for wildlife using twigs.

Bodnant - Easter Egg Hunt (Easter 2016)

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The next big holiday was Easter and Bodnant’s big activity was a massive Cadbury’s Easter Egg Hunt. The trail took children and their families around the garden looking for letters to spell out the particular sentence, which they then told the Easter Bunny to claim their chocolate (with a smaller hunt for younger children) I ate WAAAAAY too much chocolate over those two days. Again, we did some more pond dipping the following week and some kite making.

Now, on to the most popular, and busiest time of the year for the garden (this year smashing a record amount of visitors.) It’s the time when people drive for hours just to see one thing; some people from outside the UK plan their holiday to North Wales around this yearly wonder to see, to take pictures and to stand, for hours, just looking… I’m talking about the one, the only, the outstanding #BODNANTLABURNUMARCH!

It flowered towards the end of the school half-term this year which meant I couldn’t see it in its full glory (there’s always next year), but that didn’t stop me from doing more pond dipping and kite flying in the days leading up to it. With the help of the specially recruited Laburnum Archers volunteers, I think it all ran quite smoothly.

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Oh, and one more thing, I was on television (only for about 3 seconds, but still…) BBC Gardeners’ World came to visit to have a look at the Far End and the Penjerrick Walk on Furnace Hill which will be opened next year. They also interviewed some of the volunteers including the Laburnum Archers in their bright yellow gilets.

It’s not just the children’s activities I help with. Bodnant Garden is a place where no two days are the same. I have directed traffic to the car park, welcomed coach parties, cleaned up plates and cups in the Pavilion Tea Room, been on a hunt for missing teddy bears, hidden paper eggs, played pooh sticks with visitors, built a den, taken a selfie with the garden cats Whiskers and Ginger (not one of the #50Things activities, but it should  be), and run after one or two stray sheep.

14172021_10154404291394590_292540483_nSo far this summer I’ve been helping with the (yes, you guessed it) pond dipping every Wednesday and also done one day of Rolling Down a Really Big Hill in Eirias Park as part of the National Playday in August.

I always enjoy talking to the visitors in the garden and completing the #50Things. I may be over the age of 11¾, but I’ve done loads of them since being here (especially Number 6… run around in the rain!) The Big Tree Climb over the August Bank Holiday was fun too. I enjoyed (ahem) “testing the ropes, to make sure they were safe” and I look forward all the activities in the coming months.

Gethin Mullock-Jones

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Gethin Mullock-Jones with Bodnant Garden’s events and enagement officer Charlie Stretton

Whatever your age, abilities, skills or background there’s a volunteering opportunity for you here at Bodnant Garden. To find out about more about joining the team see our website http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/bodnant-garden or contact property administrator Rose James on 01492 650460. 

And from all of us at Bodnant Garden: Gethin, you are a star. Thanks for all your help over the last year. You have made a real difference and we hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as we’ve loved having you here…and please keep coming, as studies allow! 

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The secret magic in a garden

Local school pupils gave us a welcome hand in the garden recently. It brought back memories of childhood for Bodnant’s events officer Charlie Stretton:

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When I was a child, my very favourite book was The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. It’s the story of a spoilt and unhappy young girl who is brought from India to Yorkshire after the death of her parents. She discovers a hidden garden in the grounds of the rambling and lonely mansion where she is sent to live, and gradually, with the help of two friends, and of the blossoming nature all around her, she finds happiness again.

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It’s a magical tale, with beautiful and evocative descriptions of a garden being tended back to life and I think its message still rings true today – that nature has healing and restorative powers, and that everyone, especially children, can benefit from contact with the great outdoors.

Recently, our gardeners had a helping hand from the young people at Ysgol Nant Y Coed Gardening Club. The twelve girls, aged 8 to 11, visited on a (fortunately very sunny) day, and worked hard, raking leaves from under the trees and shrubs in the North Garden.

As they worked they were visited, not only by several of the gardeners here, who thanked them for their efforts, but also by a hungry robin and a blackbird, who were probably no less grateful for their work, as they hoovered up the bugs and worms in the children’s wake! The girls were fascinated by the birds pecking around in the disturbed earth, as was Mary, in The Secret Garden.

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Particularly at this time of year, when gardens are emerging from winter, we want to inspire children to take an interest in the natural world and to learn what they can do to help, whether that be by gardening, planting trees and flowers, or by feeding their garden birds. These young children are the gardeners and the conservationists of the future, and we here at Bodnant Garden are pleased and proud to have helped them on their way.

“Sometimes since I’ve been in the garden I’ve looked up through the trees at the sky and I have had a strange feeling of being happy as if something was pushing and drawing in my chest and making me breathe fast. Magic is always pushing and drawing and making things out of nothing. Everything is made out of magic, leaves and trees, flowers and birds, badgers and foxes and squirrels and people. So it must be all around us. In this garden – in all the places.” Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

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The Ysgol Nant y Coed garden club hard at work – thanks guys!

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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.

Bodnant’s big drive for volunteers

Visitors being driven in an electric vehicle at  Croome Park, Worcestershire.

Is your New Year resolution to give time to help others? We might have something right up your street…or garden path.

We want to start a shuttle service in 2016 to help visitors get around the garden and need volunteer drivers to run a two-week trial from January 26. If the trial is successful we’ll buy a 6-seater electric vehicle to ferry visitors to the far reaches of the site, from spring.

As property manager William Greenwood says: “Bodnant Garden is getting bigger! In recent years we’ve opened up more areas on the outer fringes of the garden and we’ve got more planned in the next few years too.

“Visitors have flocked to the new areas – and are loving them judging by our record visitor numbers – but we know it’s further for some people to walk so we want to make the whole garden more easily accessible to everyone.”

The garden spans 80 acres of Conwy valley hillside, from formal upper gardens down to wilder riverside areas. In 2014 we opened the formerly private sections of the Yew Dell, followed in 2015 by The Far End, and in 2017 will be unveiling Furnace Meadow and Wood.

William says: “Last year we hired a mini bus on a few days to take visitors to the Far End, which proved popular, but if we have our own vehicle (and people to run it) we can provide transport around the garden on a regular basis.”

“This golf buggy type vehicle is very straightforward to operate – accelerator pedal, brake pedal, no gears, comes with lights and indicators – and full instruction will be given. If the trial is successful we’ll be looking to buy one of these vehicles and using it daily to shuttle visitors, staff and volunteers around the garden.”

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Some of out garden volunteers

We’re also appealing for more volunteers to help in a variety of roles – whether mucking in with the garden team, meeting and greeting visitors, giving informal guided walks, or running family activities.

William says: “Volunteers are the lifeblood of Bodnant Garden, helping us in everything from the day to day work of running the garden to making the big projects possible – like opening the Far End.

“Gardeners, carpenters, historians, wildlife enthusiasts, photographers…whatever your skills there’s a place here at Bodnant Garden. We welcome anyone with a few hours to give, and promise you’ll get back lots from being part of the team. It’s also a perfect chance to get outdoors and shake off those Christmas cobwebs!”

For more information about volunteering at Bodnant Garden call the garden office on 01492 650460. Anyone who can help with the vehicle trial, or through the season as a driver, can call or email emma.baxendale@nationaltrust.org.uk for details.

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 big Bodnant ‘Thank You’ to student volunteers

We’ve had some extra helping hands at Bodnant Garden this summer. Students have been spending some of their down-time with us to gain work experience – one of them from Snowdonia and two others from a little further afield near the Italian Dolomites.

Local lad GethinMullock-Jones has been assisting Charlie Stretton, our events and engagement officer, with the summer family events – and very welcome he’s been too (as you can see here, pictured with his own work of art.)

Gethin is a student at Ysgol y Creuddyn in Llandudno and volunteering at Bodnant Garden as part of his Bronze Duke of Edinburgh Award.

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Gethin helping children make dragonfly mobiles

He says: “I like volunteering here because I have met many great people. The staff and members of the public always greet you with a smile.

“I have been helping with pond dipping at the newer part of the gardens – the Skating Pond – every Tuesday as part of Grow Wild in August. I have enjoyed helping the children discover what interesting creatures there are here.

“I like the different opportunities I get here with the National Trust at Bodnant Garden, whether its pond dipping, Wild Art or even making little dragonflies!”

Gethin’s input has been a real boost, as Charlie says: “One aspect of our work here is growing fast, and that’s providing events and activities for families. We need more volunteers than ever to help with running pond dipping, craft and wild art sessions, taking children on nature walks, or showing them the bugs and beasties that live in the grasslands here.

“So we have been especially pleased to welcome Gethin to help out with our children’s activities. He’s proved a real asset to us, and shown maturity and initiative in working with families and children.”

We’ve also enjoyed the company of two Italian students helping us in the garden. Jacopo Pedol and Stefania Moro have joined the garden team for two weeks, coming all the way from the Veneto region, close to the Dolomites.

Jacopo and Stefania – at home on our Italianate terraces!

They’re both hoping to make careers in horticulture in the future and have been getting some work experience, as well as improving their English (and learning some Welsh). They’ve been a friendly and enthusiastic addition to the team and have enjoyed meeting staff, other volunteers and members of the public.

Charlie says: “We couldn’t do without volunteers here at Bodnant Garden, and it’s always a pleasure to welcome a new person who is willing to give up their own time to help us out.

“This could be meeting and greeting visitors in the car park, helping puzzled people to make sense of their map, guiding groups round the garden, or actually getting their hands dirty weeding, pruning and grass cutting.”

If you’re interested in gaining some work experience at Bodnant Garden or joining our team of regular volunteers we’d love to hear from you. Contact our property administrator Rose James.

Meanwhile, for all those budding gardeners…we’re also recruiting students for a placement at Bodnant Garden starting from September. As part of the Heritage Horticulture Skills Scheme there are 14-month and 4-month placements available at Bodnant and other top gardens in Wales. The deadline for applications is the end of August and you can find details at info@HHSS.co.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.

A year in the life of a glorious garden – Looking back at 2014

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2014 opened on a dramatic note with gales which tore through the garden leaving a number of horticultural casualties, including the mighty oak on the Top Lawn. Severe weather kept the garden team busy throughout January and February with chainsaws and chipper – one fallen pine took out a greenhouse polytunnel (below right) and the giant blue cedar on the Lily Terrace lost several limbs. February was also time for the annual stream clearance, when the watercourse running from the top of the garden down to the Dell gets mucked out by hand (below left).

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After a stormy start to the year we were rewarded by a balmy spring with many flowers appearing early, including this Magnolia campbellii on the Croquet Terrace which gave the best show anyone can remember seeing for a long time.

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The big event of March was the opening of the Yew Dell, three-and-a-half acres of garden which had until now been closed to the public. There was a big push by gardeners and volunteers to get the area ready for opening, which attracted a large amount of media attention, including a visit by Jules Hudson and the crew from Escape to the Country (seen above interviewing area supervisor Bill.)

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 Above, volunteers deadheading daffs and Kevin the Kiosk King

Then before we knew it the daffodils were out and it was Easter. It was a really busy one this year, with lovely weather bringing in visitors who lapped up our new offerings – a refreshment kiosk in the Dell, new picnic areas and even new loos. Volunteers really took the family events programme by the horns too, and managed a host of activities including hugely popular pond dipping sessions.

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Gardeners enjoying an Easter picnic, above, and volunteers running pond dipping on the Lily Terrace

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In April we had two visits by BBC television crews. Young garden designer Mathew Childs came to Bodnant looking for inspiration for his Chelsea Show garden, which was featured in the programme Countdown to Chelsea. Chris Beardshaw also dropped in to film for the new series of The Great British Garden Revival – which starts on January 5th, so don’t miss it!

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1939642_642962205751325_1215953490_n (1)But more importantly, in the Pavilion our famous cheese scones were back on the menu. Catering mananger Pietro (left) brought back the tearoom favourites after a deluge of requests from customers on comment cards. You asked – we delivered.

May was buzzing with activity…there was the small matter of the swarm of bees that decided to make the old head gardener’s house a home. Beekeepers from Bodnant Food Centre came to the rescue on that occasion. There was also the pitter patter of paws to be heard again as we opened to dogs for the summer season.

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It was also the month we opened The Prim Path, an old walkway in the North Garden lined with native and exotic primulas, after a two-year renovation (seen below being inspected by acting head gardener Adam). Elsewhere students Nathan, Harvey and Huw were busy renovating the Tennis Lawn herbaceous beds.

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In May and June we celebrated one of our finest assets -rhododendrons – with Rhodofest, a month long series of walks, talks and workshops. We were also busy alerting visitors to the early appearance of the famous Hankerchief Tree which was flowering before its time like many other plants in the garden.

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 Above, a garden art class and the ‘handkerchiefs’ of the Davidia

July

In June we had the first of several visits by a BBC crew filming a new series Glorious Garden from Above, with Christine Walkden. The programme featured appearances by gardener Fiona, volunteer Phylis, along with Andrew Lloyd from the craft units and his team Cameron and Iain (seen above). It was aired in November and was a great tribute to the garden.

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As the year heated up so did work at the Far End, ten acres of riverside garden formerly closed to the public which opens in March 2015. The Dell team and volunteers have been working hard on the renovation for several years, which has involved some aquatic gardening (left, demonstrated by Alex and Steve.)

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In July the roses were out and we celebrated the centenary of the garden’s Italianate terraces (seen above), which were built between 1905 and 1914 and completed just before the Great War. It was an opportunity to stop and remember those gardeners, stonemasons, carpenters and others who created our now famous terraces, who went to war and did not return home.

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July was also the start of our Grow wild summer events – a daily offering of crafts, nature trails, pond dipping, seed sowing and other garden activities which drew families from far and wide, culminating in a Wild Wood Weekend in August.

???????????????????????????????In August we also ran a scything workshop when gardeners, volunteers and visitors were able to try a bygone art of grass cutting (right). Most who took part were pleasantly surprised…at the end of the day more ground was covered and fewer aches and pains encountered than people had expected!

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In September it was all change for the students on our Heritage Horticulture Skills Scheme – Harvey, Huw and Nathan (above). Harvey and Nathan secured full time positions in the garden and Huw was taken on at Bodnant Garden Nursery (well done lads). In their stead we welcomed three new students, Jess, Lee and Jette (below). Sadly Lee had to leave us (best wishes Lee) but Jess and Jette are going strong and working on a renovation of the large Top Lawn bed, left empty by the fallen oak at the beginning of the year.

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October brought more change on the staff front, not least the long-awaited appointment of a new head gardener after an 18-month search. John Rippin (below left), currently head gardener at the National Trust’s Castle Drogo in Devon, will be joining us in January. We also opened a new NT shop and welcomed Daniel, Gwenda, supervisor Kate, Louise, Brenda and Laura to the fold (below right).

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The mild weather continued giving a long and late autumn display of colour. Trees hung onto their leaves and flowers continued to flower (some salvias were still going in December!) Half term was a big hit with family visitors, with volunteers turning the Elves’ Workshop in The Dell into a Halloween and autumn craft-making emporium.

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Catering assistant Hannah in the Halloween spirit and a popular half term craft workshop in the Old Mill

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In November gardeners planted up the bare bed under the oak on the Tennis Lawn with a seasonal display of bulbs – and yes, due to the warm weather the snowdrops are already appearing! Elsewhere in the garden other plants bloomed earlier than expected including the Rhododendron Nobleanum (above right). Even the dwarf daffodil, Narcissus Cedric Morris, could be spotted in the Winter Garden.

This month we also picked the winners of out I Love Bodnant Garden photo competition, which were published in our first ever Bodnant Garden calendar (modelled here by property administrator Rose.)

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And so to December…it’s only the second year we have opened during the winter and staff and volunteers worked hard, with our neighbours Bodnant Garden Centre, to give visitors a great Christmas day out. We had Winter Garden Walks, festive food at the Pavilion and Magnolia tearooms plus a brazier and refreshments in the Dell, a Santa’s Grotto…but the big hit was our Elves’ Workshop. Fashioned out of a redundant room in the Old Mill by our volunteers, it drew around 800 visitors in the four weekends leading up to Christmas.

In fact visitor numbers have sky-rocketed this year and we’re predicting a figure of around 192,000 by the end of the financial year (February), compared to 175,000 the previous year – no doubt a mark of the fine weather we’ve enjoyed (in spite of a stormy start) but also a tribute to all the hard work of staff and volunteers throughout 2014.

We’ve got another big year to look forward to, with a new head gardener joining the team soon and the opening of The Far End in March. So Happy New Year everyone – and bring on 2015!

For more details about Bodnant Garden call 01492 650460, check out our website www.nationaltrust.org.uk/bodnant-garden or Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/BodnantGardenNT

 

Never a dull moment for our volunteers

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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.

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Pond dipping on the Lily Terrace this easter

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.

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The Easter pond dipping team and summer crafts in The Dell

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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.

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The new kiosk next to the Old Mill

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.

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Dave Horsley, Richard Berry and Santa (aka Den Reeve) at the Elves’ Workshop

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!

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A busy Elves’ Workshop last year

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!

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Two happy half term customers already queuing up for this year’s Elves’ Workshop

For more details about Bodnant Garden call 01492 650460, check out our website www.nationaltrust.org.uk/bodnant-garden or Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/BodnantGardenNT

 

 

Let volunteering open up pastures new

 

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Volunteer Josh enjoying life down in The Dell

  How about this for a stunning workplace? If you’ve ever fancied being a volunteer at one of the finest gardens in the UK – like Josh here – Bodnant Garden has a big group hug waiting for you!

  Whether you could give the gardeners a hand, meet and greet visitors or have any other unique, weird or wonderful skills to offer, we welcome anyone with time to give. 

  We’re holding a spring Volunteer Recruitment Day on Tuesday, May 6, when you can drop in and talk to staff and current volunteers about the many and varied opportunities available.  

  Josh Hackett is volunteering to gain experience for his horticultural career. He says: “Something which is not lost on any who have come to it, Bodnant Garden is an astonishingly beautiful place. It is truly, stunningly beautiful. It is really, really beautiful. This is something I want to emphasise to those considering volunteering at Bodnant.

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  “The term ‘volunteering’ might suggest selfless work and toil, but in fact I am committing myself to a place awash with colour, verdant foliage, birdsong and the sound of rushing water. The moment I step in, some primeval instinct latches upon the natural spectacle and releases waves of contentment. It is a day of refreshment in the centre of my week.

  “Very few people are fortunate enough to have such an opportunity, to escape the traffic and the screens and the buzzing of phones, or at least realise that they do (it is only five miles from Llandudno Junction). Of course you can come to Bodnant Garden simply as a visitor, but the quiet loyalty that comes with volunteering compels you to return. 

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Volunteers deadheading daffodils

  “Having spoken of a ‘natural spectacle’, I should make it very clear how much hard work goes into Bodnant Garden. The staff and volunteers are very friendly and caring, and trust you to treat things with the same diligence and conscientiousness as they do.

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Renovating the Yew Dell for opening in March

  “As well as the gentle humour that drifts around Bodnant, there is also a great wealth of knowledge about plants and I have learnt a great deal from others already. The tasks are not always glamorous, but being able to walk through the Dell at the end of the day and know that I’ve invested part of my time and effort into it is a fine feeling indeed. I would recommend volunteering at Bodnant to anyone and everyone.”

  We have around 30 garden volunteers like Josh who muck in with the team and help with all aspects of daily routine maintenance, help in the nursery and even work in the office engraving plant labels. 

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Helping with famiy craft days

  We also have around 40 visitor services volunteers who meet and greet coach parties, help with guided tours, assist with garden events from weddings to falconry displays, do carpentry and maintenance, tend bar at Walk and Wine evenings, run storytelling for children – and more. 

  As well as the chance to work in the beautiful surroundings of one of Britain’s most famous gardens, volunteers get free entry to National Trust properties in the UK and a discount card for National Trust outlets. They are also invited to regular staff meetings where they play a full part in discussion and planning. 

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You might even get the chance to play Santa!

   The Volunteer Recruitment Day takes place from 11am to 3pm. No booking is necessary, just drop in at the Volunteer Recruitment Cabin near the car park and meet volunteers and staff to find out what opportunities are available. 

   For more details about Bodnant Garden call 01492 650460, check out our website www.nationaltrust.org.uk/bodnant-garden or Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/BodnantGardenNT

A little Christmas magic for the Old Mill

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  The doors are being thrown open for the first time at the historic Old Mill in Bodnant Garden – with the help of a little Christmas magic from Santa and the elves!

   The Old Mill must be one of the most photographed parts of our beautiful garden but it is normally closed to the public. Until now…because in the run-up to Christmas part of the 180-year-old listed building is being transformed by our volunteers into an Elves’ Workshop where families can enjoy weekends of traditional festive crafts.

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Santa dropping in on volunteers Dave and Richard who are sprucing up the Elves’ Workshop

   The mill, a Grade 2 listed building, is on the east bank of the River Hiraethlyn in garden’s famous Dell. It was built around 1837 and was first used to provide power for a blast furnace. It was later used to turn the wheels of the estate flourmill and then the estate sawmill. 

   It has been out of action for many years but some of the original old workings including wheels, mill stones and flour chutes are still in place. Visitors often ask about the building and we’ve had many suggestions about possible uses – as a working museum, conference space and even a tearoom. We opened the main door this year to allow visitors a peek of the great wheel but for safety sake a gate bars entry. Extensive renovation will be needed before the building can be fully opened to the public, but we hope to do it one day.

  However in the meantime one side room, previously used by gardeners to store tools, is being given a festive spruce-up to turn it into an Elves’ Workshop on Saturdays and Sundays, December 7/8, 14/15 and 21/ 22. Families can enjoy Christmas crafts and there will also be hot drinks and snacks in front of a brazier in the Dell.

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Using an alternative mode of transport to deliver toys to the Elves’ Workshop

  Santa himself will be around – at a Winter Wonderland at Bodnant Garden Centre on Saturdays and Sundays through December. There will be a present for every child who visits and donations raised will go to Ty Gobaith Children’s Hospice.

   We’re getting into the spirit of things in the Pavilion tearoom too, where special Christmas menu will be available from December 1 to 22.

  From this year the garden is open every day except Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day so make it part of your festive calendar. Come and see how things are coming on in the new Winter Garden, which opened just last year, and enjoy a walk around the rest of the garden which is full of sparkling, frosty, seasonal colour.

  There is no extra charge for the Elves Workshop and all craft materials are supplied but book to ensure a place and time slot by calling the garden office. For more details about Bodnant Garden call 01492 650460, check out our website www.nationaltrust.org.uk/bodnant-garden or Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/BodnantGardenNT

Join our happy gang at Bodnant Garden

Ever fancied being a volunteer at one of the finest gardens in the UK? Bodnant Garden is holding a Volunteer Recruitment Day on Thursday, September 5, when you can drop in and find out about the varied, weird and wonderful opportunities available.

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Running a children’s craft day

 Visitor Services Manager Ann Smith says: “Our volunteers are the lifeblood of Bodnant Garden. They help us in all every aspect of life, from gardening to engaging with visitors to catering to handiwork. They are part of the team here and have a huge input into all we do.”

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Keeping the refreshments flowing

Bodnant Garden has around 40 visitor services volunteers who meet and greet coach parties, help with guided tours, assist with garden events from weddings to falconry displays, do carpentry and maintenance, tend bar at Walk and Wine evenings, run storytelling for children – and more.

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Helping the gardeners

In addition there are 30 garden volunteers who muck in with the team and help with all aspects of daily routine maintenance, help in the nursery and even work in the office engraving plant labels. As well as the chance to work in one of Britain’s most famous gardens, volunteers get free entry to National Trust properties in the UK and a discount card for National Trust outlets. They are also invited to regular staff meetings where they play a full part in discussion and planning.

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Tending bar at evening events and manning plant sales…

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…and of course letting your hair down at the Christmas party!

Our Volunteer Recruitment Day takes place from 11am to 3pm. No booking is necessary. Call the office on 01492 650460 for details.

See our website www.nationaltrust.org.uk/bodnant-garden or Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/BodnantGardenNT for more about Bodnant Garden.

Growing ambition

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Nathan and Bodnant’s acting head gardener, Adam Salvin

We have many volunteers at Bodnant Garden. Some are retired people with time to give while others, like Nathan Lewis, are gaining valuable work experience in order to build their careers. This is Nathan’s story…

“If you want to be the best you have to be trained by the best” – in his own words, that was what drove Nathan Lewis to seek out work experience at Bodnant Garden. Nathan has just come to the end of six weeks volunteering at our National Trust garden near Conwy, which he’s been doing alongside studying at horticultural college.

You could say he’s got the gardening bug. The day after he finished at Bodnant he jetted off to Italy with a local community group to look at garden projects over there. Now back home in Llanrwst, he’s getting stuck in again with his studies, helping at his local allotment group and considering the next step in his horticultural career.

Nathan is a real advocate of the opportunities volunteering can bring. At 34 he has come to gardening in a roundabout way (like many of us). After a decade and some of various jobs, from carpentry to labouring, he decided to follow that nagging voice in his head and try for a job in horticulture…but where to start?

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Weeding in the Shrub Borders with Bodnant gardener Graeme

He says: “I had a hard think about what I really wanted to do. I have always enjoyed gardening, like my dad and taid – Taid used to take part in the Llanrwst Show with his vegetables. I love fruit and vegetable growing in my small garden too.”

Nathan got involved with Golygfa Gwydyr in Llanrwst, a non-profit, community organisation which provides opportunities for volunteering and training through activities based in the Gwydyr Forest – including a community garden growing fruit and veg.

Project officer Rosie Evans says: “Nathan has been involved with the garden from the start two years ago, coming along at weekends with his kids. He has sorted the soil for us and advised us what to plant and it’s doing well. He’s a star – I’ve made him my head gardener!”

Seeing his potential, Rosie encouraged Nathan to follow his ambitions and to enrol at Northop College where he is doing a Level 2 Diploma in Horticulture. Part of that has involved seeking out work experience…which is what brought him to Bodnant Garden.

In his six weeks at with us Nathan has mucked in with the garden team in all aspects of routine maintenance including weeding and maintaining beds, working with the arborists and cleaning out one of the pools. But it hasn’t been all routine – his favourite job was cutting back cornus on one of the islands which involved using a boat!

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Mucking in…Helping clean out the Deep Bath at Bodnant Garden

Nathan says: “The six weeks has been a great taster. It’s given me real experience of real gardening. I would recommend volunteering to everyone. It gives you hands-on experience and can be a way into work. You get just as much back as you put in, and more.”

In Nathan’s case, his recent tour of Italian gardens wasn’t a bad return for his efforts! The trip was funded by Golygfa Gwydyr through grant sources. That, and the time he’s spent at Bodnant Garden, has been the inspiration for Nathan to keep pushing forward with his ambitions.

If you are interested in volunteering at Bodnant Garden, whether gardening or visitor services, contact our office anytime on 01492 650460. You can also find out more about Golygfa Gwydyr by contacting Rosie Evans on 01492 642110.