Bodnant’s Bath cleans up at horticulture awards

We did it again! Bodnant Garden has won another industry award for horticultural excellence. The garden team’s transformation of The Bath has been named Best Garden Restoration and Development Project 2017, by Horticulture Week magazine.

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An award-winning tropical garden from Bill Warrell, Graeme Jones, Harvey Baker, Roger Chesters and Lynne Clifton

Our Visitors Services team also made the final five for a volunteering award, giving Bodnant Garden two moments in the spotlight among a host of renowned UK organisations. (Another award should have gone to gardener Lynne Clifton for fastest sprint to the podium to collect the certificate – despite some pre-event nerves, there was just no holding her back!)

19429680_1482825888431615_6517026061134862382_nLynne travelled to the awards at Woburn Abbey Sculpture Gallery on June 28th to represent the Glades garden team, along with events officer Charlie Stretton representing the Laburnum Archers and myself (Fran, garden media officer). It was a long day on many trains, but rewarded by great company and the pleasure of seeing Bodnant Garden showcased among the horticultural cream of the nation.

Horticulture Week is a leading industry magazine found in garden mess rooms up and down the land. Their Custodian Awards 2017 received entries from wide-ranging organisations from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Thiepval, to bodies such as the National Trust, English Heritage, Woodland Trust, as well as council parks and private gardens.

Nominations were judged by independent panel of judges including Tony Arnold, chair of the Professional Gardeners Guild, Sally Drury, technical editor of Horticulture Week, Sue Ireland former open spaces director of the City of London, gardens consultant Alan Sargent and arboriculture expert Dave Lofthouse. Presenting the awards, Lord Michael Heseltine spoke about the importance of gardens and green space and how they could transform disadvantaged communities.

joe2-bodnant-garden-the-bath-in-october-10.jpgBodnant Garden won the category Best Garden Restoration and Development Project, for The Bath (seen above, last September) The tropical redesign by former supervisor Bill Warrell and the team beat off competition from projects at Quarry Bank National Trust and Compton Verney House Trust.

Bill, now head gardener at our NT neighbours Plas Newydd and Penrhyn Castle, was over the moon at the news when tweeted and sent congratulations to his old muckers. He added: “I am delighted for the team at Bodnant Garden that they have received this prestigious award. It is wonderful recognition for all the hard work that went in to making the renovation of the Bath a success.”

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Our Laburnum Archers (seen above) was shortlisted for the Best Community/Volunteer Project, alongside Hardwick Hall (National Trust), Audley End (English Heritage) and Woburn Abbey – the award going to Woodland Trust for Observatree, a project which created a tree health early warning system for tree pests and diseases using citizen science.

Stiff competition…in fact surveying the organisations present at the ceremony, Bodnant Garden has cause to be proud. Having won the Horticulture Week awards in 2016 for the renovation of the Far End we’re now on a roll and aiming for the hat-trick next time!

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

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

Heavenly scent of spring at Bodnant Garden

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We’re basking in a spectacular spring at Bodnant Garden. It began with an early display of daffodils, encouraged by a mild winter, and thanks to a spell of bright, sunny days the season has just got better and better. Beds and borders are ablaze with bright tulips, wooded glades speckled with bluebells, and everywhere the blooms of rhododendrons, magnolias, viburnums and other flowering shrubs and trees hang overhead and decorate the ground underfoot.

The garden is a kaleidoscope of colours; but the scent is something else. An intoxicating atmosphere hangs in the air everywhere you wander, mingling as you pass from plant to plant; the soapy-white aroma of Rhododendron loderi ‘King Goerge’ transforms into the sweetness of wisteria before merging into lemon-fresh Rhododenrdron luteum.

We hope you enjoy some images of Bodnant Garden at blossom time. Close your eyes and imagine the scent…or better still, come and visit!

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In the upper garden: Clematis and wisteria cloaking terrace walls; bright and blousy peonies and tulips filling beds; a riot of rhododendrons in the North Garden; pockets of Himalayan poppies and primulas

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Even the Winter Garden looks beautifully spring-like!

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In The Glades: Asian rhododendrons, acers, magnolias and primulas; native bluebells; our star plants of high spring Embothrium coccineum (Chilean Firebush) and Davidia involucrata (Handkerchief Tree)

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Magnolia soulangeana, drifts of blue Omphalodes beneath trees, and Viburnum plicatum

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In the valley garden: Scented ivory Rhododendron ‘Penjerrick’ and yellow Rhododendron luteum; unfurling tree ferns on the newly opened Furnace Hill; the grand vista of towering conifers and seclusion of shady pathways

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The spring spectacle will soon be crowned by the flowering of the Laburnum Arch – which we expect to be a week earlier this year (around the 20th of May), lasting for three weeks. A sudden change in weather can always set this back, so keep a watch on our website and social media for updates.

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

 

 

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.

Help crown Bodnant Garden’s old chestnut as Wales Tree of the Year

Here at Bodnant Garden the grand old Sweet Chestnut on our Top Lawn is one of our most loved residents. Known as a ‘walking tree’, she’s now in the running for the title of Wales Tree of the Year.

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Gardener Dave Larter hugging our Sweet Chestnut

Striding across the grass of the formal lawn with her gnarled, many-legged trunk, the old girl is one of the first sights to greet visitors when they arrive through the garden gates, much photographed, painted and admired.

Now, she is one of six great trees around the country vying for the prestigious title of Wales Tree of the Year in a competition being run by the Woodland Trust. The public are being asked to vote for their favourite and the winner will be announced in mid-October.

So why is she so special? This tree is one of the oldest at Bodnant Garden, a remnant of its early, Georgian past.

Owner John Forbes built the original hall in 1782 and created a parkland around it in the Landscape style of the day after designers like Kent, Capability Brown and Repton. This brought nature close to the house with a panorama of rolling grassland dotted with native trees like oak, beech, sycamore and chestnut, and a ha-ha or ditch keep grazing animals away from the hall.

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She’s there somewhere… among the group of trees in front of the hall in this picture of Bodnant Garden from the mid 1800s

With her solid Georgian roots, our Sweet Chestnut has withstood the passage of time and the rugged North Wales weather, being encorporated into the later, formal Victorian upper garden and ageing into her very own, unique character. Her main stem was blown out at some point in the past by a lightening strike causing the trunk to split. Over time several of the larger branches have layered themselves upon the lawn, giving her ‘legs’.

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Today, a great place for a bug hunt

She’s a favourite of gardener Dave Larter who watches over our trees here at Bodnant Garden. He says: “I love trees! Especially old trees with some history, trees with character and trees with potential for the future. This one has it all. At well over 200 years of age, maybe 250, she is making her claim on the top lawn for sure.

“Having lost her top many decades ago, she started to ‘walk’ northwards. Beaten back by strong winds and chainsaws, she is now intent on a south-westerly route. A truly ‘walking tree’, she  appears almost Elephantine without foliage, placing her trunk where she wants to go next. She has already layered daughters which are layering their own offspring and, given chance, they will layer theirs. Who knows where she could be in years to come?”

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Perfect for just enjoying the shade on a hot day

Bodnant Garden is home to many exotic and native trees, some of them UK Champions – the biggest and best of their kind in the UK. The Sweet Chestnut is an honourary native, having been introduced to Britain by the Romans, and while ours hasn’t attained any official Champion status (yet!) she certainly holds a special place of honour here at the garden.

The Wales Tree of the Year competition runs until October 9. To vote for our Sweet Chestnut find the details at the Woodland Trust website here http://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/visiting-woods/tree-of-the-year/wales

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Draped in finery during our recent textile exhibition at 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