Horticulture Week Custodian Award - Best Gardens Restorations/Development Project

Winner - The Far End, Bodnant Garden National Trust

The team at Bodnant Garden National Trust in Conwy, Wales, unveiled 4ha of riverside called the Far End to the public in March 2015. The garden area, containing a boating lake and arboretum, was originally developed in the late 1800s and early 1900s by the garden's donor family and had long remained private.

A five-year renovation effort by gardeners and volunteers battling against storms and flooding has breathed new life into this once-hidden part of the garden.

Bodnant Garden spans 32ha of hillside, encompassing Italianate terraces, pastoral glades and a dramatic gorge garden. But the Far End has a character all of its own. The River Hiraethlyn meanders through the valley via pools, ponds and a lake filled with naturalistic planting and frequented by birds and wildlife.

This area was originally laid out by the garden's founder, Henry Pochin, in the 1870s as part of a riverside "wild garden". He established an arboretum and planted drifts of bulbs and waterside plants. The area was further developed by his descendents, with a skating pond and boathouse.

After the garden was gifted to the National Trust in 1949 the Far End remained a private area with low-level maintenance, but a major renovation began in 2010. The aim was to restore the area back to its Victorian/Edwardian glory as a wild garden using native and exotic plants.

Contractors de-silted the pools and ponds, and the skating pond and old boathouse were both restored. Bodnant's arborists removed sickly old trees while gardeners and volunteers cleared acres of brambles and weeds. Woodrush was mass planted along the riverside to retain the banks. Gardeners removed areas of invasive bamboo and replanted new ornamental trees and shrubs for all-year interest, plus grasses and herbaceous plants including Himalayan poppies and primulas.

Flooding caused extensive damage in 2011 and 2012, but the work continued. A refreshment kiosk, toilets and picnic area were added along with a shuttle vehicle in the summer, and nature events such as den building and bug hunting draw in families and specialist groups. At the close of the season in February 2016 Bodnant Garden had recorded some 226,000 visits, compared with 193,000 in February 2015.

Highly commended

Reviving Trentham, St Modwen

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