Get rooting for Bodnant Garden’s Welsh Champion Tree

This autumn, as dazzling leaf colour lights up Bodnant Garden’s 80 acres, we’re inviting everyone to go wild about trees in a month-long festival… and to kick off the celebrations we’re asking you to get rooting for one of our special residents.

Coast redwood by Rory FrancisOur Coast Redwood in The Dell is in the Wales finals for the Woodland Trust Tree of the Year 2017 competition. This 130-year-old native American lady (or is it an old man?) soars over the riverside where she’s made herself perfectly at home – a living symbol of the garden’s rich and amazingly beautiful tree collection.

We’ll be celebrating her and our other trees during Treefest from October 13 to November 10, with a host of woodland activities.

We love our trees here at Bodnant Garden. The collection goes back to the Georgian era when the first beech, oak, sycamore and chestnut were planted. Successive generations of the garden’s owners planted American conifers and Asian broad-leaved trees and today Bodnant is home to 42 UK Champion Trees – the biggest, rarest and best of their kind – plus 130 Welsh Champs too.

Giant Redwood tree (Sequoia sempervirens) in The Dell at Bodnant Garden in August, Conwy, Wales

The garden’s Victorian ‘founding father’ Henry Pochin planted the Coast Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) in 1887. At 51-metres she’s now a Wales Champion Tree (rated second tallest in the UK at the last Tree Register survey in 2016 and as she’s still growing, who knows how far she’ll go?)

It was Mr Pochin who developed the pinetum in the valley garden, planting American and oriental conifers along the banks of the River Hiraethlyn. Some of these were exotic to British gardens, newly discovered by 19th century plant hunters. In Bodnant’s waterside dells these new trees thrived, sheltered against the elements were they have grown taller and faster than in other areas of the garden.

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Head Gardener John Rippin says: “For me the most dramatic tree at Bodnant is the champion Sequoia sempervirens which is the tallest of its kind in Wales. It’s not just about the immense size (which is pretty awesome) but also the potential this tree has to carry on growing.

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“The average age of redwoods in the wild is 600 years but some are believed to be over 2,000 years old. Conwy Valley has ideal growing conditions for them and I would love to think Bodnant’s giants will be going strong in 200 years, possibly reaching the magical 100 metre mark, providing future visitors with an even more awesome sight and helping preserve one of the world’s most incredible trees.”

There are some amazing stories behind our trees; the rare and exotic ones discovered by intrepid plant hunters in centuries past, and the native ones which are home to so much wildlife today. Come and discover more during Treeefest… and in the meantime, if you feel inspired to cast a vote for our Coast Redwood, you can do it here until October 8:  www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/visiting-woods/tree-of-the-year/wales Our Sweet Chestnut on the Top Lawn was a runner-up in the competition last year and featured on a Channel 4 documentary – let’s see if we can go all the way!

You can see the full programme of events for Treefest on our website at Treefest Bodnant Garden 2017

Chapel Park in all its autumn glory2

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

 

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Walkies at Bodnant Garden just got better

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Big ones and small ones, fluffy ones and sleek ones…we’ve grown accustomed to seeing dogs of all shapes and sizes in the garden over the summer on #WagWednesday evenings, and we’ve been loving your pictures too. The season has come to an end, but it’s not long until November dog days begin again. And we’ve got some news to get those tails wagging…next year we’re extending our welcome to dog walkers throughout the year.

From 2018 dogs will be welcome all day, every day in autumn and winter (from beginning of October to the end of March) and on #WagWednesday evenings in spring and summer (from beginning of April to end of September.) So apart from Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day (when the garden is closed) there will be an opportunity to bring your dog to Bodnant every week of the year.

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Earl and Poppy both enjoying the hydrangeas – proving to be a popular posing spot!

We know many dog owners love bringing their best friends and furry family members with them when they visit – in some cases, not being able to bring the pooch prevents people being able to visit. We do also appreciate that other visitors are not so comfortable around canines, or just prefer to enjoy the garden dog-free, frankly.  So we’ve tried our best to develop a programme that will allow all of our visitors the time and space they’d like in Bodnant Garden.

Steve Stratford and Bobby

Bobby just chilling on the Top Lawn

We first trialled dog entry in winter 2013 and have been tweaking the programme since, thanks to your feedback.  Up to now we’ve had a March/April and September/October break in the programme – a ‘breathing space’ to review the impact of dogs on the garden and on visitors – and are now filling in the blanks. We’ll keep reviewing how it goes, so if you have any comments or suggestions keep letting us know.

As always we just have a few simple asks of our dog walkers – please use a short lead (not extendable ones) stick to the gravel and grass paths, and of course clean up after your dog (bags are provided in reception.) And keep sending those fabulous photos!

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Freddy here (above) and Bailey (top picture) have become #WagWednesday regulars…and familiar faces on social media too. Thanks everyone for sharing your pictures 🙂

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

 

 

Magical musical finale to summer at Bodnant Garden

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If we had rafters at Bodnant Garden, they would’ve been well and truly raised last week by the musicians of Denbighshire Music Co-operative, who gave us a concert finale to our summer events.

These talented youngsters took visitors on a musical tour of the world, from Spain to India and all stops in between – via brass band to stadium rock – and the bhangra-style dance on the Canal Terrace is something we won’t forget for a long time to come. It brought down the curtain on a summer of family activities at the garden, in joyous style.

Our thanks to everyone at Denbighshire Music Co-operative. This group is a not-for-profit organisation, run by the teachers for the benefit providing tuition for pupils in the area. For more information see their website: http://www.denbighshiremusic.com

Perhaps these images, by our young volunteer photographer Gethin Mullock-Jones, will inspire you to get music-making (or even volunteering for Bodnant Garden!)

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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

 

A sweet treat from Bodnant Garden

 

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As well as being the crème de la crème of the horticultural world, Bodnant Garden is branching out in a new culinary direction and opening our tearoom for seasonal evening dining experiences.

The first is a must for pudding lovers – a Dessert Tasting Evening on Friday, September 1, when diners can enjoy supper followed by six delicious sweets.

Assistant catering manager Pete Thomas (below), who has cooked up the idea, says: “This is an evening of pure indulgence for anyone with a sweet tooth – and a little taster of our new seasonal programme of food events to follow.”

Pete Thomas

Around 250,000 people visit the garden each year and for many of them the cooked breakfasts, morning coffees, hot lunches and afternoon teas served at our tearooms are as big a part of their day out as the beautiful floral displays.

As well as welcoming visitors into the Pavilion and Magnolia tearooms 362 days a year, catering staff serve al-fresco refreshments at kiosks in the outer reaches of the site. This year staff have even been pedalling an ice cream bicycle around the formal lawns, in their mission to keep visitors fed and watered.

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Our catering team, tireless in their efforts to bring refreshment to visitors…

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bodnant-garden-april-16-222.jpgSpecial evening dining at the Pavilion tearoom will be yet another new venture for the garden’s dynamic catering team. Catering manager Ailsa Morris (right) says: “It’s been a great year for my team. Our next exciting challenge is the launch of seasonal dining evenings – and hopefully the pudding tasting is the perfect way to whet people’s appetites.”

A light supper will be served from 7.30pm (a choice of Roast Pepper, Tomato and Cheese Quiche with a Sweet Potato Crust or Warm Chicken Salad with a Honey & Mustard Dressing) followed by six surprise desserts. There will be a vote for the favourite pud, which will then get pride of place on the garden’s autumn menu, and as the icing on the cake diners will also get the chance to win Christmas dinner for four people at The Pavilion.

The cost will be: £24.95 per head and booking is essential as places are limited. Contact Ailsa Morris or Pete Thomas on 01492 651924 to reserve your place.

Bodnant Garden April 16-228

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

 

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

 

Having a field day at Bodnant Garden

July is meadows month when, up and down the land, we celebrate this precious native habitat.

Plas newydd-3Here at Bodnant Garden we’re inviting visitors to enjoy our own meadows at their swaying, summer peak, swishing with the sound of Yellow Rattle seed-heads and buzzing with insects. We recently welcomed local school children – our events and engagement officer Charlie led the pupils of Ysgol Eglwysbach on a perfect, sunny nature trail around Furnace Meadow, newly opened to the public this year.

Our gardeners have been out exploring too, recently joining colleagues on a meadow study day looking at the conservation work done by National Trust Wales at Moss Farm near Ysbyty Ifan – and coming back buzzing with inspiration for our own grassy acres.

The traditional native meadow is an endangered species in Britain today so this restored plot at Moss Farm (seen below, on a somewhat damper day) is a precious example of what we’ve lost in the landscape… and what can yet be put back.

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The meadow has been restored in partnership with conservation group Plantlife, which has spearheaded the Coronation Meadows project. This initiative aims to create a ‘model’ meadow in every county in the UK, harvesting seed from these wildflower-rich donor meadows which is distributed to other local meadows-in-the-making.

Moss Farm is one such Coronation Meadow and wildflower seed from here has been donated to other local sites in Gwynedd and the Conwy Valley – including a field belonging to Plantlife’s own botanist Trevor Dines, near Bodnant Garden.

IMG_6532Bodnant gardeners Hollie, Christina, Harvey with Trevor Dines of Plantlife on their field trip to Trevor’s meadow, spotting Eye Bright, Bird’s Foot Trefoil and Betany – indicators of a propsering meadow.

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Our garden team visited Trevor’s Farm after viewing the donor site at Moss Farm. It was a great day learning about the diversity of meadow habitats, discovering wild flowers…and impressively-horned cattle!

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It’s inspiration for our own conservation work at Bodnant Garden, where we manage three wildflower meadows – the Old Park (opened to the public in 2012), Furnace Meadow (newly opened in 2017) and Cae Poeth Meadow (opening 2019.)  Since 2012 we’ve been working to a grassland management plan to enrich the wildlife found there with traditional, low level maintenance – a regime of mowing and removing hay in August, grazing with sheep in autumn, avoiding fertilisers and herbicides, along with sowing seed of Yellow Rattle to keep down grasses and encourage the growth of flowers. Already we’ve seen an increase in wildflowers flowers in The Old Park (seen below), including orchids.

Old Park summer

Why do it? Today in the UK there remains only 3% of the meadows which existed in the 1930s – that’s a staggering loss of 7.5 million acres of wild flower grassland.  In conservation terms the knock on effect is a massive decline in butterflies and bees, which has big implications for the pollination of our crops and gardens. There is an effect on water quality too; low use of chemicals and low intensity grassland management reduces the level of pollutants entering water sources and nutrients being washed out of the soil. In the larger scheme of things, there’s evidence the decline in grasslands may be affecting climate change too, as they store and use carbon at a higher rate than forests.

That’s why, alongside Plantlife, National Trust Wales is a leading partner in the campaign Save Our Magnificent Meadows, a Lottery funded effort to restore wildflower meadows and other grasslands.

We’re also working with Plantlife at Parc Farm, the National Trust site on the Great Orme. This limestone headland provides a very different grassland habitat to the damp meadow at Moss Farm but here, careful management can again make a world of difference to wildlife. Grazing with sheep is helping to keep grasses down and allow quite unique wildflowers to thrive (seen below, images courtesy of Plantlife.)

Join us celebrating our precious grassland heritage at Bodnant Garden, Great Orme and other National Trust Wales sites this month. You can find out more here :

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Curtain up on Bodnant’s colourful Festival of Fabric

The curtain is up on our festival of fabric at Bodnant Garden. Members of North Wales Embroiderers’ Guild have adorned sites around the garden with artwork reflecting our trees, plants and flowers in an exhibition called Landscapes and Gardens.

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Bodnant Garden volunteers Megan, Linda and Pam with some of the artwork outside the Old Mill

It’s part of a national Embroiderers’ Guild celebration marking the 300th anniversary of the birth of the great landscape designer Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown. As a leader of the English Landscape movement during the 18th century, Brown transformed stately home estates and parks throughout the land with his naturalistic style, which brought the countryside into the garden.

Embroiderers have performed their own engaging, beautiful and subtle transformation around Bodnant Garden this summer. Silken birds, butterflies and bees glint in the sunshine among the plants and fabric hangings sway from the branches of trees. These unexpected works of art are delighting visitors; many stop and do a double take and then as recognition dawns (oh look there, a dragonfly!), eyes light and admiration follows.

We’re delighted to welcome the guild to the garden, whose talented members have clearly put a huge amount of work, time and love into this exhibition. Running from August 20 to September 8, it’s a first for Bodnant Garden too. Here’s a taste…

Tapestries hanging in the old Sweet Chestnut tree

Tree dressing

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Marilyn Smith from the guild says: “There are 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