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

Growing Bodnant Garden’s tearoom team

When naturalist Iolo Williams visited Bodnant Garden to open a new area our catering team provided the icing on the cake – with a gigantic celebration sponge.

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VIP guest Iolo Williams helps Mark cut the Furnace celebration cake

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Rachel and Julie creating THE CAKE

 

The 1mx1m baking masterpiece was created to mark the opening of Furnace Wood and Meadow. It was so big it nearly didn’t fit through the Pavilion cafe’s kitchen doors – but staff and volunteers managed to carry it down to the Old Mill in one piece where VIP guest Iolo served it out to hundreds of visitors.

It was one of the highlights of the big day on April 11. The stop to our tearooms is often a highlight of visitors’ day at Bodnant Garden – that pre or post coffee and cake, the leisurely lunch, the al fresco ice cream in summer and hot chocolate in winter, these are the treats which make a garden visit a memorable day out.

And with another garden highlight approaching, the flowering of the famous Laburnum Arch in June, we’re growing our catering team for the summer season.

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Elain  takes the ice cream trike for a spin

We’re looking to recruit around ten staff from May to the end of October (both full time and part time hours available.) There will be an open day on Thursday, May 4, when anyone can drop by at the Pavilion tearoom, from 10am – 4pm, and chat to catering manager Ailsa Morris about working at Bodnant Garden.

Ailsa says: “There’s never a dull moment working here at Bodnant Garden! It’s a beautiful place to work, and you get to work with a great team of staff and volunteers.”

Our tearooms provide varied menus of Welsh produce (some of it comes from the garden) and are creative designing menus for events like Valentine’s and other special days. Based at our Pavilion and Magnolia tearooms, staff get to go out into the garden, serving at our kiosks in the Dell and Far End. We’ve also got a new ice cream trike in the upper garden – another opportunity to enjoy the garden and mingle.

Chef Jay Rayner and BBC Radio 4 team with Bodnant Garden property manager William Greenwood and our catering manager Ailsa Morris

Bodnant Garden property manager William and catering manager Ailsa with chef Jay Rayner

As well as looking after visitors on a daily basis there are events to cater for here at the garden – like cooking up lunch for staff and volunteer work groups or hosting school parties – and outside events too, such as exhibitions and shows. This last year the team have represented the National Trust at Countryfile Live event at Blenheim Palace and hosted BBC Radio 4 programme with celebrity chef Jay Rayner at the Pavilion tearoom.

If you’d like to be part of our team here at Bodnant Garden drop in anytime on our open day on Thursday, or call Ailsa on 01492 651924 for more information.

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 Insta

 

 

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

 

 

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.

Tempest to tropics: 2016 at Bodnant Garden

A garden is full of surprises; one minute you’re in waders, the next it’s flip-flops and a sarong.

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Our New Year 2016 at Bodnant Garden didn’t exactly get off to a great start. Floods hit over the Christmas period, bringing rain and river water surging through from the Pavilion tearoom at the top of the garden all the way down to the Far End, and leaving a trail of debris in its wake. But with true Bodnant Garden grit, staff and volunteers put their holiday breaks on hold to come in and clear up the mess.

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Things soon began to look brighter In January when we launched an appeal for special volunteers – Laburnum Archers – to help us look after the crowds of visitors who flock to see our famous floral pergola walkway in late spring. We were amazed by the response; in no time we were welcoming a new crack team of helpers into the fold and kitting them out with distinctive, not-to-be missed, eye-wateringly yellow jackets:

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Our Laburnum Archers with Bodnant Garden events officer Charlie Stretton (who may have been responsible for those yellow jackets…)

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In February we launched our #BodnantFountainAppeal to raise money to replace the crumbling 18th century water feature on the Croquet Terrace. Gardener Dave (seen below) kicked off the effort by collecting coins thrown into ponds around the garden. By the end of this year our volunteers had raised a whopping £5,000 from raffle ticket sales towards the conservation cause.

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A mild March arrived bringing blue skies, sunshine and the early appearance of flowers like this century-old magnolia on the Terraces. There was also a welcome sighting of daffodils in the Old Park:

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As well as providing wonderful garden displays this lovely spring weather, which continued into April, gave us a memorable Easter holiday, with families making the most of outdoor activities like kite flying, nature trails, crafts and wild art.

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In May some of our gardeners joined volunteers from Happy Valley in Llandudno (seen below) to share their experience of laburnum pruning with the team there, who look after their park’s own miniature arch. It’s not as long as our 55-metre version but with more TLC in years to come it should blossom into a beautiful feature.

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In May we opened the garden gates again to dogs, including the team from Guide Dogs Cymru who brought some of their VIP pooches along to launch our summer season:

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13332972_1138412542872953_289533962182889784_nThis month saw the first flowering of our Poppy Beds flanking the Terraces. Sown in 2015, these contain Himalayan poppies (like the blue Meconopsis seen here) and primulas. Our garden team also celebrated winning a national horticulture award for Best Garden Restoration (for the Far End, opened in 2015) – Maxine, Steve and Nathan (seen below) put on their best bibs and tuckers to attend a prize-giving at Chelsea Physic Garden, London.1431756014024-far-end.jpg

June is traditionally Laburnum Arch time but this year we also unveiled a floral wow of the future – The Penjerrick Walk. This is a newly planted avenue of historic rhododendrons on Furnace Hill, a garden area under renovation which opens to the public in spring 2017. We hope the 100m long Penjerrick Walk will be a feature to rival the Laburnum Arch in generations to come. Head gardener John Rippin (seen below) welcomed the press for a sneak preview of Furnace, unveiling an artists’s impression of how the Penjerrick Walk could look in future.

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The arch itself was featured on Gardener’s World (seen filming, below) and attracted a record-breaking crowds – 20,000 visitors in the first week of June – which kept our Laburnum Archers, along with other volunteers and staff, on their toes!

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In June we also had a day by the seaside in Llandudno where we set up a patio garden on the prom. Staff and volunteers, bearing home-made lemonade and shortbread, were able to chat with passers-by about the #WorldOfGardens around @NationalTrustWales.

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July sunshine brought out the wildflowers (and wildlife) on our temporary Canal Terrace borders. The collection was chosen by the public in response to our #PinMillFlowerPoll held earlier in the year. Thanks everyone who voted, the results were outstanding! These borders are now being permanently re-designed – watch this space.

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In August the garden was brought to life with a host of #50Things events like Pooh-Sticking, den building, pond dipping and bug hunting. We also hosted a textile exhibition staged by the members of North Wales Embroiderers’ Guild, whose beautiful, colourful, skilful work decorated the garden for two weeks through the summer (some of it modelled, below, by our volunteers.) The young musicians of Denbighshire Music Co-operative brought a summer party to the garden with a performance in front of the Pin Mill and the holidays closed with a bank holiday tree climbing weekend.

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In the summer we also opened a new riverside walkway in the Dell. The Mill Pond Path (below) has been renovated by gardeners and offers visitors a new view of the Waterfall Bridge – plus some surprising greenery along the way including tree ferns and carnivorous plants.

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September opened with a bang – and a hot-coloured tropical one at that – in the shape of a party to launch the opening of the Bath, our renovated poolside garden. Visitors who came to admire the exotic new planting scheme were greeted by staff and volunteers dressed in Hawaiian shirts and flower garlands, offering exotic fruit cocktails. We all cheered on gardeners as they introduced goldfish back into the ornamental pond:

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October brought a spectacular, long autumn display, with the leaf colour of trees and shrubs mingling with late flowering plants, as seen here in this magical image sent to us by visitor Nerys Haynes:

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Autumn was the perfect time to celebrate our Champion Trees. These are the biggest or best of their kind in the UK and a new survey by the Tree Register revealed that our collection has doubled to more than 40 in the last decade! We held a tree festival week with guided walks and a new Tree Trail and Map; children from Eglwysbach School came in to help us plant new oaks (seen below), and there followed a half term week full of woodland-inspired events.

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Below: Volunteer Gwen with our new Champion Tree Trail, and Great Orme ranger Doug doing wood turning demonstrations

And talking of trees, in November our old Sweet Chestnut on the Top Lawn (seen below) was also a finalist in the Woodland Trust’s Tree of the Year competition, making it onto the shortlist of six top specimens.

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15675864_1299018636812342_6620073918418315799_oDecember is all about the little people. Our Elves’ Workshop in the Old Mill in the Dell has become a popular event for families in the run-up to Christmas. The workshop was started by volunteers four years ago who renovated a redundant room in the mill building. It’s now a big part part of our Christmas calendar and this year the elves were happily run off their teeny-tiny feet.

As we say goodbye to 2016 were’re also waving a fond farewell to Jenny from the catering team, who’s retiring, and to garden supervisor Bill Warrell, who leaves us to become head gardener at our National Trust Wales neighbours, Plas Newydd and Penrhyn Castle. So we’ll leave you with an image of Bill (far left) as we’d like to remember him…in a Hawaiian shirt and sarong.

Happy New Year everyone!

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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.

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.

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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!