TAL-Y-CAFN, Wales, April 22, 2016 — In Wales it is known as “Gardd Bodnant.” Those of us who find Welsh difficult—it shows a sad disregard for vowels—it is simply called “Bodnant Garden.”
No matter what you call it, Bodnant Garden in the Conwy Valley in Wales is nothing less than breathtaking.
Begun in 1875, the 80-acre garden surrounds Bodnant House, an estate first laid out by the successful industrial chemist Henry David Pochin. The house itself was built in 1792, but was later remodeled by Pochin in 1874. Upon his death in 1895, Pochin’s daughter inherited the property.
In 1949, the gardens, but not the house or other parts of the estate, were presented with an endowment to the National Trust. Since 1911, when Pochin’s daughter became the first Baroness of Aberconway, four generations of the family have actively and lovingly participated in the management of the gardens.
As in any great garden, the varieties of flowers are seasonal, but travelers wishing to maximize their visit usually choose March or April as the prime viewing time. But no time is a bad time to take in the myriad ornamental pools nestled beneath the lordly mansion that overlooks rhododendrons and azaleas, as well as noted collections of magnolia, camellia, clematis and hydrangea.
Over its more than 100-year history, Bodnant Garden has built a worldwide reputation for its breeding program.
Is it a garden or are they gardens? It’s difficult to decide.
The property is divided into two sections: The upper level around the estate features massive Italianate terraces and formal lawns with paths descending to the lower level, known at “The Dell,” a wooded valley, stream and garden complete with an Old Mill, Mill Pond and a spillway waterfall that babbles its waters into the River Hiraethlyn.
Much of the genius of Bodnant Garden is the manner in which the landscape architecture is laid out. Nothing is left to chance. From the moment visitors arrive, there is no doubt about which direction they will look to view the flowering masterpieces blooming before them. It’s all part of the design.
It all began rather innocently in the 1790s when trees were planted to enhance the surroundings. Nearly a century later, the Dell garden was created along with the world famous Laburnum Tunnel.
It was the second Lord Aberconway who started the collection of rhododendrons and magnolias. His enthusiasm for growing the proper seeds was passed on to his son and the rest is history.
By 1938, a pin mill had been imported from the Cotswolds to serve as a garden pavilion on the Canal Terrace.
Do not be fooled by notices and brochures stating the “length of visit” should be two hours plus. De-emphasize the number “two” and plan on the “plus”; this is a venue that captivates the imagination and should not be rushed.
Bodnant is said to be “one of the finest gardens in the country.” That is pure understatement. Situated in an idyllic setting above the River Conwy with extensive views of the Snowdonia Mountain Range, it is impossible to imagine another garden site that can outdo Bodnant.
From mid-May to mid-June is the best time to view the Laburnum Arch with its spectacular mass of yellow blooms.
At other times of the year you will be rewarded with carpets of golden daffodils and flowering cherry trees residing in the formal garden, the lily pond, the Japanese Garden or the Dell with its array of forested mosses and ferns that reach upward from clear gurgling streams toward a charming wooden bridge.
Of the numerous specimen trees in the woodlands of the Dell you will discover California redwoods, an Oregon Douglas fir and a Dawn redwood, a species from China that was once believed to be extinct.
Situated above the Dell is the family mausoleum known as “The Poem,” from which emanates a network of shrubberies and the Rosemary Garden to the front lawn across to the Round Garden.
Bodnant Garden is a year-round attraction. In winter months the gardens are open from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Add an extra hour from March through October when closing is at 5 p.m. The only days it is closed are Dec. 24–26.
Prices vary, so it is best to visit the website for ticketing and other information.
Bodnant Garden is one of those great “discoveries” that makes travel an incurable condition. Here you almost expect to see a naked man and woman romping through the forest because Eden must have certainly paled by comparison.
About the Author: Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award-winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe. He is founder of the Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com). His goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.
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