Visit to Bodnant Gardens

On 21st July, on a glorious afternoon, twenty members visited Bodnant Garden where we were shown around by one of our own history group members, Wendy Lonsdale, who also volunteers at Bodnant Gardens.

We were also joined by another Bodnant Garden volunteer Dave, who had lived on the grounds as a child and recounted several stories about life in such wonderful gardens.

Early records show that Bodnant, or Bodnod as it was known, was home to the Lloyd family from the reign of James 1, passing by marriage to the Forbes family in the mid 1700s. An earlier house was replaced in 1792 by Colonel Forbes, creating an Italian styled mansion. He also developed the land around Bodnod Hall planting oaks, chestnuts and beeches, which are the backbone of the garden today.

In the early 1800s the estate passed by marriage to William Hanmer of Bettisfield Hall near Whitchurch, who made further improvements, building the Old Mill and extending the garden around the house.

The estate exchanged hands again in 1874 when it was bought by Henry Davis Pochin for the princely sum of £62,500 (about £7million in today’s money) who enlisted the skills of landscape designer Edward Milner, to develop the formal Victorian shrub garden including the Laburnum Arch. At this time several paths were created down to the river where North American conifers were planted. It was at this time that the estate became known as Bodnant.

The ownership of Bodnant passed from Henry Davis Pochin to his daughter Laura McLaren, and then to her son Harry Aberconway. In 1949 Harry gave Bodnant to the National Trust. Today the gardens are tended by a team of up to 25 full time gardeners and about 50 volunteers.

Bodnant Gardens is home to a wide variety of plants and trees from all over the world. Many of the trees are giants in their species, either in height or girth. These are usually labelled to help the visitor appreciate them.

The Poem is a family mausoleum within the gardens, with views over the lake and waterfall. The name probably comes from the acronym for “Place of Eternal Memories”. Here David explained that if you possessed a camera phone, it could display the objects inside the building far better than our natural eyesight. Several members then dashed up to the grille in the door to prove this theory with amazing success.

We finally left the gardens after 2 hours, having had a wonderful time enjoying the plants and trees. Our thanks to Wendy and to Dave for their excellent tour and sharing their anecdotes of life and times at Bodnant Gardens.

Trefor Price

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