Join us for a Great Orme walkies

Attention all our #WagWednesday dog walkers – join us for a fun day on the Great Orme in Llandudno, to celebrate the summer opening of footpaths at our neighbouring National Trust Parc Farm…

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Visitors to Paws in the Parc on Saturday, June 16, can enjoy dog shows and demonstrations, and get a chance to look around and learn about the conservation work being done at this special farm.

Our NT Wales ranger Doug Don (seen above with his own faithful hound Flynn) says: “We had 200 visitors last year for our first dog fun day and everyone had a great time. This year it’s going to be bigger and better – a fun day for all the family and four-legged friends.”

The Great Orme is one of Britain’s top five botanical sites. The limestone headland is home to rare species of plants and animals, some of which are found nowhere else on earth, and their future requires a more traditional way of farming.

Tenant farmer Dan Jones (seen below with his family) manages Parc Farm for National Trust Wales where he close shepherds his flock – provided by the conservation charity Plantlife – on the rugged grassland, working alongside Trust rangers and volunteers to manage and maintain the landscape and welcome visitors.

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Last year the team created two new footpaths across the farm, which open from June to December (closed in the winter during lambing and while birds are nesting).

Ranger Doug says: “Last year we opened two footpaths giving access to an area which has been closed to the public for generations. It gives people the chance to see the farming going on, spot the Chough in the fields near the summit and the unique wildflowers. Hopefully it will help people understand what we’re doing here and why the sheep are so important for the conservation of the Great Orme.”

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Plants such as Hoary Rockrose thrive on the Orme (Image:Plantlife)

Paws at the Parc is being supported by Conwy County Borough Council, Plantlife, Valley Training and Pont. Running from 11am to 3pm, there will be a fun dog show, obedience demonstrations, a sheep shearing demo by farmer Dan and guided walk by ranger Doug, information stalls by local groups and children’s craft activities.

There is limited parking at the Orme summit car park, also public transport available from the town via the Great Orme Tramway and the cable car (which all accept dogs). Follow the signposts for the event from the summit car park. Owners are asked to keep their dogs on short leads within the farm walls, and under close control elsewhere around the headland where there are livestock.

If anyone would like to know more about our work on the Great Orme contact our National Trust office on 01492 650460 or check out @ParcFarmNT on Facebook  http://www.facebook.com/ParcFarmNT

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A passion for flowers

Julie Pigula (2)If you’re a follower of Bodnant Garden on social media you may have seen the work of photographer Julie Pigula – most likely through her pictures of dog Bailey, one of our regular #WagWednesday visitors.

Here Julie talks about her passion for garden photography, why Bodnant Garden provides so much inspiration, and offers some tips for others keen to capture that perfect image:

I was born into a world of flowers. My father was a keen horticulturist and we had a large cottage garden and two very large greenhouses where dad used to grow his prize-winning chrysanthemums to show. As a little girl, I was always down the garden helping out in the greenhouses. I loved getting my hands dirty, transplanting the seedlings out ready for a new season. I actually bought my first camera just so I could take pictures of our garden and the flowers in it and it wasn’t too long before I became hooked on photography, and it has been my passion been ever since.

I attended night school for photography, joined a local camera club, and then became a member of the Royal Photographic Society, achieving first a Licentiateship, progressing onto Associateship and finally gaining my Fellowship with a panel of twenty macro images of flowers, frost and ice. I am also a member of and supporter of the Disabled Photographic Society, of which I also hold a Fellowship.

Red Admiral

I have visited many of the National Trust gardens, Bodnant Garden being one of my very favourite places to spend time with a camera, and especially now it is truly a garden for all seasons. The garden is ever changing and this is one of the things which keeps me coming back year after year. There is always something new to see and photograph.

Bodnant gives you the opportunity to do all types of photography, from close up pictures of the amazing array of plants to beautiful vistas taking in the whole of the garden. But where do you start? Today there are so many books about garden and flower photography, and even more articles on the web, that it is easy to get lost without even ever taking a picture. These are just a few things that go through my mind before I press the shutter.

Do I want to photograph just one flower, a group of flowers or a garden scene? Deciding what aperture to use: Do I want all the scene to be in focus using a small aperture, or isolating one element by opening up the lens and using an aperture of f4 or less? Remember also that the larger the length of the lens the shallower the depth of field will be.

When you have found your subject, look around the frame before you press the shutter to see if there are any distractions in the background. These days we can always fall back on photoshop but it is so much easier, and rewarding, to get it right in camera.

These are a few of my favourite pictures which I have taken over the last few years at Bodnant using a range of lenses and apertures.

Rosa 'Ann Aberconway'

Macro Lenses: These, of course, are specialist lenses but are well worth the investment if you like flower photography. Roses must top the list of the most photographed flowers with the range of colours and shapes, Bodnant has two wonderful rose terraces. I used a 100mm macro lens with an aperture of f11 for the picture of the rose because I wanted to get most of the flower in focus. A good thing about roses they do not blow about in the wind too much.

Poppy

Zoom Lenses: Of course, you do not have to have a macro lens, lots of zoom lenses have a macro setting, so you can get in close and fill the frame. The picture of the Red Poppy was taken when there was an annual selection of flowers on the Canal Terrace a couple of years ago. It was taken at the 300 mm end of a 70 – 300 mm zoom lens. I used an aperture of f5.6 because I wanted a shallow depth of field to give a softness to the picture with just the poppy in focus. Poppies have such vibrant colours and have such wonderful detail in the stamens and in the centre of the flowers. They are however very delicate and are easily moved by the slightest wind.

Pin Mill

Wide Angle lenses: This is the classic picture of Pin Mill which everyone takes. It was taken using a 17-40 mm zoom lens using a low viewpoint and focussing on the water lilies in the foreground. The focal length was 17 mm I used an aperture of f9 to get most of the scene in focus.

Robin

Of course, there is not just flora in the garden there is also lots of wildlife too, blackbirds and grey squirrels scurry through the leaves under the trees and scrubs. If you’re lucky a robin will pose on one of the gardener’s spades for you. There are Yellow Wagtails near the top of the garden and  dippers in the Dell. During the spring and summer months, both the Lily Pond and Pin Mill have mayflies and dragonflies hovering over the lily pads and by late summer you may even see a few butterflies on the terraces.

AcerGarden photography is not just a summer hobby; Bodnant Garden is now open all year round. Spring brings not only daffodils but trees with beautiful blossom. Who could resist the swathes of azaleas and rhododendrons or the beauty of emerging new leaves in pristine condition to be captured by a lens? Summer and the garden is filled with colour in the Rose Terraces; autumn is also a great time to be out with the camera and the Acer Glade, in particular, looks spectacular. Winter brings snow and frost which bring a whole new dimension to garden photography and the Winter Garden has been planted specifically to show off winter trees and shrubs. From the beautiful barks of the white birches to the red stems of the dogwood. You will be amazed how much there is to photograph.

Autumn

On the subject of weather; it’s a very British thing to quote John Ruskin: “There is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather”.  However, for outdoor flower photography, it is a lot easier if it is not raining or blowing a gale. Little or no wind makes close-ups of flowers so much easier and early morning and late evening are often the best times of day when the light is softer. Take advantage of the late opening on Wednesdays in summer when the garden is open until eight in the evening.

There is so much more I could say but the most important thing is to have fun, after all, that should be what photography is all about.

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A Passion for Flowers by Julie Pigula FRPS FDPS

Thanks Julie for sharing your images – and your advice! 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

Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed Bodnant

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGardener Tracy Jones reflects on our experimental Bring Your Dog to Bodnant days, which have been a great success, and says thank-you everyone who supported the trial event…and others for their patience and understanding! 

So the Dog Days are over; nine days over the last three months…and what a great event it has been.

In total, more than 400 dogs have come through Bodnant’s gates accompanied by around 650 owners and their friends. They came along no matter what the weather. We had some heavy showers on the February days and snow in March but also some beautiful sunny (if a little chilly) days – the last day was one of those and the sunshine attracted more than 60 dogs and their owners.

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Gardener Tracy and her dog Rossi

I’ve been a gardener here at Bodnant for 11 years and love my job. I feel so lucky to spend every work day in such beautiful surroundings. The Dog Days have given me the opportunity to do something extra special too, something that involves my other passion…dogs! I have loved chatting to dog owners as they came in while handing out dog biscuits, free waste bags and the comment cards.

So a big thanks to all who took the time to fill in the comment slips. These have given us lots of feedback and I think it’s safe to say that the vast majority of people thought it was a brilliant idea and were delighted to be able to visit the garden with their pets (I say pets because we also had a cat visit recently.) With all the positive feedback there’s a good chance we will be holding more Dog Days in the future, so watch this space!

Thanks also to the Dog Day regulars, folk who visited on more than one occasion over the nine days – and there’s a lot of you – your support was much appreciated.

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Linda Elstone, from Rhos, with Honey

On Saturday, March 9, we had a visit from the folk at SARDA Wales (Search and Rescue Dog Association). This brilliant bunch of people brought along their dogs and gave a great demonstration on the top lawn, explaining to visitors, many of whom took part, how their dogs search for missing people. A huge thank-you to them for giving up their Saturday to do this – hopefully they will visit us again in the future.

My final thank you goes to the visitors who came without animals! I understand that some folk don’t own or like dogs. All the visitors I spoke to seemed to understand what we were trying to achieve by allowing dogs here on special days…and that is, to make this wonderful place accessible to more people, generating more income, so that we can continue to keep the garden looking as beautiful as it does, for everyone to enjoy.

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Heidi the Harlequin Great Dane, with her owners, locals Carys and Alan Foster. With them were Sharon Mullins and Paul Foster with Murphy.

There was no ‘trouble’ on any of the days; no mess, no holes dug, no doggie conflicts of any kind. It is such a shame that not all dog owners are as responsible or thoughtful as those who visited here. In my local area, Rhos-on-Sea, dog mess is a real problem. I just hope the non-dog owners who came to Bodnant saw that all our four legged visitors were well behaved and left the gardens as they found it!

So it’s back to regular gardening for me now, until the next dog event. Like all the gardeners here, I’m looking forward to the summer and hope for a good season. Come and see me on The Terraces if you visit again, or I’ll catch you on the next Dog Day!

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Keeshonds fresh from showing at Crufts… Kai, Keira and Honey with Debbie Hopkins and Simon Oakley, from Penmachno

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The team from SARDA Wales

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Left, Dylan the Giant Schnauzer with Joni Stubbs-Thrush, from Llandudno, and, right, The Thiery family from Bethesda

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Gardener Fiona Braithwaite meeting Diana and John Leach from Colwyn Bay, with Harvey.

We are now reviewing the feedback from the trial and considering a regular programme of Dog Days for the future. Watch our Facebook page and website for more details.