Quarter of a million Welcomes – now that’s something worth celebrating

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Any excuse for cake and bubbly…but this week we really did have a perfect excuse, as we officially marked a landmark quarter of a million visitors through our garden gates.

Staff and volunteers downed tools for a little celebration to mark the milestone – 250,000 visitors from March to February 2017/18, the first time in our garden’s 140-year-plus history that we’ve welcomed so many people.

BodnantVisitorCeleb-3Property manager William Greenwood (seen above, cutting the enormous cake – courtesy of our catering team) said: “Wow. I really can’t believe it. A quarter of a million visitors – and counting – in a single year. We’ve said ‘Hello’ and ‘Bore da’ 250,000 times. We’ve helped park cars, made countless cups of tea and sold thousands of home-made scones. We’ve run events and activities throughout the holidays, welcomed hundreds of happy dogs (and owners). We’ve opened more of the garden than ever before and are developing and refreshing even more.

“A huge thank you to all our staff and volunteers, whether they work in the garden, in the tea rooms or shop, in the office or at reception or helping us stay clean and tidy; we couldn’t have done it without all your hard work and dedication to the best garden in the UK!”

What was that…did someone mention ‘best garden’? Bodnant is also proud to be flying the flag for Wales right now in the BBC Countryfile Magazine Awards 2018 – the only Welsh garden in the final.

Wales finalists in other categories include Snowdonia (National Park of the Year) Pembrokeshire Coast (Holiday Destination of the Year) Newborough (Beach of the Year) and Castell Dinas Bran (Landmark of the Year). So here’s your chance to tell the world about our wonderful places in Wales – you can vote until March 5 at www.countryfile.com/category/tag-cloud/bbc-countryfile-magazine-awards

A huge Thank You and Diolch yn fawr to everyone who has visited Bodnant this year (in life or online) – garden lovers, families, nature spotters, photographers, we salute you! Your support helps us to maintain this truly special place #ForEverForEveryone.

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AND…just a reminder that Bodnant Garden recently hosted BBC Radio 4 Gardeners’ Question Time. The show is broadcast this Friday, February 26 at 3pm, and repeated on Sunday at 2pm. We had a great time doing it and hope you enjoy listening.

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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Highlights – and high winds – reflections on 2017 at Bodnant Garden

As a new year approaches, we take a little look back…

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It has been a turbulent year – and not just in politics. Here at Bodnant Garden we’ve had our share of weather dramas but we’ve managed to rise above a series of stormy setbacks to enjoy some real highs – achieving major work in the garden, welcoming more visitors than ever and even picking up a couple of awards along the way.

We opened the year by launching our new guidebook (modelled above by our volunteer Den) updated with recent historical discoveries that we’ve been making from the archives. In February we welcomed lots of families for half term with our ever-popular snowdrop planting; this year we also set up a Plant Hunters expedition camp at the Old Mill for young explorers (like our volunteer Gethin here) which proved really popular.

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But February also brought an unwelcome visitor – Storm Doris. Gales wreaked havoc in the garden, ripping up trees and leaving debris.

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Especially badly affected was Furnace Hill, a new area we were readying to open to the public. With just a month to go until the grand opening the team (Nathan, Maxine, Alex, Fiona, Steve and Christina, seen below) had to grit their teeth and begin a massive clear-up operation throughout March.

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Iolo and Fans

They did it. After an amazing effort by gardeners and volunteers, on April 11 the ropes came down, a ceremonial log was chain-sawed, and hundreds of visitors entered Furnace Wood and Meadow for the first time. TV naturalist Iolo Williams joined us and lead a mass, celebratory daffodil planting in the meadow.

There followed a period of calm after the storm, bringing a beautiful spring. Many plants flowered a little earlier than usual, from the daffodils in March to the famous Laburnum Arch in late May, which was in bloom a good week before expected. Visitors flocked to enjoy the fabulous old rhododendrons in Furnace Wood, and picnic in the meadow for the first time.

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IMG_5984Elsewhere in the garden work continued  planting up the new North Garden woodland beds and the Himalayan poppies and primulas were flowering in recently redesigned beds alongside the Pin Mill. Fantastic flower displays weren’t the only things catching visitors’ eyes – the family of Canada Geese at the Far End were the focus of much admiration and many photographs too.

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19429680_1482825888431615_6517026061134862382_nAfter the heady highlight of the arch, Bodnant Garden won Best Garden Renovation (for The Bath), as well as runner up for Best Volunteer Project (Laburnum Archers) in the prestigious industry Horticulture Week Awards – Charlie, Lynne and Fran enjoying a trip to the ceremony at Woburn Abbey in June to represent the team.

In July we bid a fond farewell to our Visitor Services Manager Ann Smith, who retired after more than 30 years with Bodnant Garden. In a fitting tribute, as a leaving gift we named a unique rhododendron after her, which means she’ll always have a place here at the garden. We also welcomed our new Visitor Experience Manager (below right).

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The children of Eglwysbach School helped us celebrate National Meadows Day with a visit to Furnace in sunny July. We also took a little bit of Bodnant Garden’s meadows to the National Eisteddfodd on Anglesey in August, as part of a National Trust Wales exhibition. It was a combined effort from staff and volunteers across North West Wales, (like our Andy, below) who ran the week-long event, meeting and greeting visitors… in the face of torrential downpours which opened the school holiday season!

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And so began a fun-packed, if slightly damp summer of family events at Bodnant Garden, highlights including a workshop with North Wales Embroiderers Guild, and an unforgettable afternoon with Denbighshire Music Co-Operative who gave us a garden party on the Canal Terrace.

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September brought better weather and a lovely display of late summer flowers (plus an unusual number of late butterflies too). We launched our first Silent Space at the Arboretum in September, encouraging visitors to enjoy perfect peace and quiet. Elsewhere, lively chatter was most definitely allowed, with our volunteers leading a new series of guided tours in the Welsh language.

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DSC_2174As schools returned we welcomed our own new horticultural student at Bodnant Garden – Julie (seen right) swapped her catering uniform for garden gear as she moved across from working at the Pavilion tearoom to being part of the garden team. Autumn also brought two more additions to the garden team with the appointment of supervisors Merlin and Ann (seen below).

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4In the autumn Bodnant Garden’s 51-metre Coast Redwood in the Dell was runner up for the title Tree of the Year in a competition by the Woodland Trust (the eventual worthy winner was the Hollow Oak at Gnoll Estate Country Park). Thankfully our veteran tree, a Welsh Champion, was not damaged in Storms Ophelia and Brian which followed in October, but in their wake they left another clean-up operation for our garden team. In spite of the damage and debris, the team managed to make the garden safe and tidy for half term, so that we were able to go ahead with our autumn and half term Treefest celebrations.

In November it was ‘glad rags’ on as we celebrated more award successes – a first for our work at Parc Farm at the PR Week Awards in London (attended by manager William and farmer Dan), Best Attraction at the Welsh Hospitality Awards in Cardiff (attended by catering manager Ailsa) and runner-up for Best Attraction and Green Award at the Go North Wales awards in Llandudno (attended by Visitor Welcome staff Rachel and Pip).

Fresh from storm clearance, gardeners progressed with other work in November, completing the new planting of the Canal Terrace borders and taking down a row of Lawson Cypress on the East Garden. Both areas have been newly designed and should be flowering in 2018, so watch this space.

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The team managed to get their work done just in time before the heavens opened and snow descended in December. The garden was closed for a day while gardeners set to, once again, clearing paths to welcome pre-Christmas visitors but thankfully no major damage was done…and the dusting of white made for some magical photographs.

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And so to 2018…we’re working towards opening the third of our meadows, Cae Poeth, next year and seeing all the new design work around the garden developing. We’ll also be marking the national centenary of Women’s Suffrage – celebrating Bodnant’s donor family who played a pivotal role in the fight to secure votes for women. We’ll be sharing more about the history behind the garden over the course of next year here on the blog, on our website and social media, and around the garden itself.

Thank you everyone for visiting the garden and following us in 2017 – your support helps the National Trust look after this very special place. We wish you all a Happy New Year!

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 warm Christmas welcome at Bodnant Garden

However you like to celebrate Christmas there’s something for all at Bodnant Garden; whether you’re after peace and tranquility, or food, fun and festivity, you’ll find it in our 80 acres. It all starts with a warm welcome from our Visitor Centre staff, who’re putting on their best Christmas pullies just for you…

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Enjoy peaceful walks in a frost-sparkling landscape, bring the children to meet Santa and the elves, discover unique gifts at the shops and craft units and warm up with seasonal food – be that marshmallows over a brazier or a full Christmas lunch.

Bodnant Garden - Winter Garden in FebruaryThe star on our tree is the Winter Garden. This feature was opened five years ago after a major garden renovation and is now bursting with colour, texture and scent. As other gardens are going to sleep the Winter Garden springs into life; flowers, foliage and bark creating a real winter pick-me-up for the senses. A cold weather forecast is an added bonus – it looks even more beautiful with a dusting of frost and snow.

See our website for the Winter Garden Trail, which guides you around highlights of the this area and formal East Garden. It’s a short, level, accessible trail, which will suit all the family – perfect for a quick escape from the high street hurly-burly.

Take your ease over our Christmas menu in the tearooms, or combine lunch and a gardener guided walk on one of our special events. If you drop in at the Pavilion you can leave a memento of your hopes and dreams for for 2018 on our special Wish Tree…and pause to read some of the moving, and funny, wishes left by others.

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Kids will love the popular Elves’ Workshop. Drop in at the Old Mill in the Dell and make Christmas crafts with our band of Bodnant elves, followed by toasted marshmallows by the roaring brazier outside. There’s hot food in our special marquee in The Dell at weekends too, where children can have a go at decorating Christmas cookies.

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The National Trust Gift shop and our neighbours at Bodnant Garden Centre offer a huge range of Christmas ideas, from cards, decorations and gifts to plants, as well as Christmas trees and wreaths (you might even bump into Santa.) What’s more there’s a unique collection of local arts and crafts products at Bodnant Craft Centre, from jewellery, paintings, ceramics and furniture.

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And of course there’s a big beautiful garden to explore; you can bring your dogs every day from November until the end of March too.

We’re open all year-round (apart from Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day). We hope you’ll join us – every visit helps us look after Bodnant Garden #ForeverForEveryone, so your support will certainly make our Christmas!

  • Elves’ Workshops: November 25/26, December 2/3, December 8/9 and December 16/17 from 11am – 2.30pm (£3 drop-in event, booking not required)
  • Santa’s Grotto: Pop along to our neighbours at Bodnant Garden Centre and see Father Christmas, on December 2/3, December 9/10, December 16/17 and 23rd from 11am – 2pm (£3 donation per child, proceeds to charity)
  • Winter walk and tea: Wednesday, December 6 from 11am, a guided walk with a gardener followed by afternoon tea in the Pavilion (£19.95 per person, call to book)
  • Birds of Bodnant Walk: Friday, December 8, 11am (free, please book)
  • Winter walk and lunch: Wednesday, December 13, a guided walk with the head gardener at 11am followed by a two course Christmas lunch in the Pavilion (£25.95pp, call to book)
  • Festive dessert tasting evening: Friday, December 15, sample puddings created by our chef in the Pavilion (£24.95 pp, call to book)

All details on our website www.nationaltrust.orh.uk/bodnant-garden

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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

 

 

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

 

Magical May at Bodnant Garden

The Upper GardenWe’re all set for a magical May at Bodnant Garden. The month brings a crescendo of spring colour, from exotic rhododendrons to native bluebells and a riot of blossom in between all crowned, of course, by the show-stopping Laburnum Arch.

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This year we’re pulling out all the stops to make the experience a memorable one for everyone. From the beginning of the month we’re opening the garden gates early, and late, so visitors can make the most of the spring flower show.

We’re also offering breakfasts in the tearoom for early birds and have recruited a team of special volunteers, Laburnum Archers, to help visitors coming here for the famous floral spectacle, which attracts around 50,000 people over three weeks.

The 55 metre-long Laburnum Arch was created by the garden’s Victorian founder Henry Pochin in 1882 and is the longest and oldest in Britain. The display of golden flowers in late spring is the most visited, photographed and anticipated event of Bodnant Garden’s year.

We put ouGetAttachmentt an appeal earlier this year for volunteers to help with the display and our events and engagement officer Charlie Stretton has been busy recruiting and training the merry band, who will be in special Laburnum yellow uniforms.

Our Laburnum Archers will help direct visitors, answer queries, take photographs for people, hand out brollies if the weather’s wet or drinking water if it’s hot, and help make the Laburnum Arch experience fun, friendly and enjoyable for everyone.

To give everyone extended access to the garden, people will be able to visit from 9am in May and June and stay until 8pm on Wednesday evenings (from May to the end of August.) Dogs are welcome on Wag Wednesdays evenings too, from 5pm-8pm.

And fueling all those hungry visitors will be our award-winning Pavilion tearoom, which has recently undergone a makeover by staff and volunteers and will be providing breakfasts from 9am throughout May and June.

Azaleas and rhododendrons near the Shrub Borders at Bodnant Garden, Conwy, Wales

Other horticultural highlights to enjoy at this time are the rhododendrons. It’s said there’s a rhododendron in flower every month of the year at Bodnant Garden, but they are at their peak in May. The garden’s oldest were brought here from Asia by Victorian and Edwardian plant hunters. In the 1920s and 1930s some of these plants were cross-bred at Bodnant Garden to make new hybrids which are now beloved by gardeners all over the world.

Adding color to the palette is the blossom of cherries, viburnums, late flowering magnolias and many other shrubs and trees; herbaceous plants are filling beds and borders and drifts of native bluebells run through the grass glades and wooded areas of the garden.

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Now is also a great time to see garden projects underway – the renovation of the Bath poolside garden and the Canal Terrace borders – and to see the new Himalayan Poppy Bed near the Pin Mill, created last year, flowering for the first time.

The Laburnum Arch is the icing on our spring cake. We’ll keep everyone updated here, on or website, Facebook and Twitter, about its ETA. We’re all set, so watch this space!

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.

 

Let the great outdoors inspire you in 2016

As recent storms and flooding have reminded us, nature is truly awesome in its power…but nature also has the power to inspire and energise us like nothing else. Here are some new year thoughts from our events and engagement officer Charlie Stretton on reconnecting with the great outdoors:

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Wrapped up and ready for anything…Charlie at Bodnant Garden

I‘ve never been a particular fan of Bear Grylls. To me he has always been a bit of a showman, ramping up the danger factor and the breathless assertions that ‘I could die any minute on this rockface/river/dodgy old rope bridge’ when you know perfectly well that he has a camera crew, a safety line, a comfy hotel and a dozen risk assessments written by the BBC Health and Safety team tucked up his sleeve.

However, he wrote an article recently in the Sunday Times magazine. It was all about getting people – particularly over-cossetted movie stars – out into the wild. He even took Barack Obama into the wilderness, and talked about the importance of protecting that environment for their grandchildren. The article was thoughtful, well-considered and timely. It touched on many important points – primarily how we, in this day and age, live in such a bubble of comfort and technology that we rarely, if ever, experience that sense of being part of the natural world, or of pitting ourselves against the elements, or of having to use our innate survival skills, long-buried by centuries of development and increasing alienation from our environment. He makes the point that this kind of modern living induces a lethargy, a listless apathy in many of us.

However, before Christmas I had to chance to do a bit of unscheduled reconnecting with nature myself. I was dressed as an elf (bear with me here) running craft activities for our younger visitors here at Bodnant Garden. All was going well, despite it being a miserable sort of day, when my neighbour rang. “Come home now” she said “or you won’t get home at all”.

Be inspired…Join us for the Big Bodnant Garden Birdwatch on January 30 and 31

There had been considerable rainfall, the rivers were swollen and many roads had turned into torrents in a matter of hours. I left my colleagues (with their blessing) to continue with the crafts, hit the road and it soon became apparent what my neighbour was talking about. Turning off by Conwy Falls Café, a council van with yellow flashing lights blocked the road ahead, just in front of an enormous amount of water, spilling across the road into the field below. Three cars had already tried to get through, including the postman, and had conked out in the middle. “Don’t even think about it” was the advice.

Nothing for it, but to park up at the side of the road, don my waterproofs and wellies, top it off with my emergency hi-vis vest, and set off on foot. Five miles, in the fading light, down little country lanes, a considerable amount of which were underwater and were only passable by wading extremely slowly. The wind was whipping my wet hair into my eyes, and at times was so strong I had to stand still. The water in places was up to the top of my trusty wellies, and was flowing over the road so fast I had to think twice before crossing. After about two hours, trudging along with the full force of nature being flung in my face, I made it home.

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Be inspired…Plant snowdrops at Bodnant Garden this February half term

But the strange thing was, when I got home, I didn’t feel exhausted or traumatised. I felt massively energised, exhilarated and on a huge high. I felt like I had pitted myself against the elements, had set myself a challenge, and come though it with flying colours. It was an oddly euphoric sensation. Now I do realise that walking home in the rain is not in quite the same league as some of Mr Gryll’s exploits – I didn’t have to consume any warm yak’s blood en route, or drink my own urine at any point – but I still felt that same sense of elation, that sense of having connected with a more visceral and primal side of life, that he refers to in the article.

Of course, there are other, less soggy ways to connect with nature, and to feel that same sense of the timelessness and power of our environment. Just walking though the ancient trees here at Bodnant Garden, or through our fields of daffodils or bluebells, or dipping in the pond with a fishing net – all these can be enough to remind us what’s important. We need nature. We feel uncomfortable if we are denied access to nature for any length of time – and that’s because we are part of it. We are inextricably linked to the natural world, in a continuum that has existed for millennia. We are, as Bear Grylls says, a piece in a jigsaw so big that we can never see the edges, but into which we fit exactly.

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Be inspired…Join our team on a volunteer work day, we could certainly do with the help repairing the flooded Far End!

So, as we all sit in that state of self-induced lethargy brought on by the excesses of Christmas and New Year, maybe now is the time to shake things up a bit, and get outside, even if it’s a howling gale and pouring rain. Wrap up warm, put your best waterproofs on, and, just for a little while, remind yourself what it is to be a part of nature. No dodgy rope bridges required.

For more details about volunteering at Bodnant Garden call 01492 650460, for details of upcoming events check out our website nationaltrust.org.uk/bodnant-garden or catch up with us on Facebook  or Twitter.