Garden lovers eagerly awaiting the May blossoming of the famous Laburnum Arch at Bodnant Garden near Conwy can enjoy the golden archway during extended hours this year, but booking is essential.
Last year is believed to have been the first time in more than a century that visitors weren’t able to enjoy the spectacle at the National Trust Cymru garden near Conwy. With the nation in lockdown during spring 2020, the garden was closed; the pergola walkway of golden flowers, which normally attracts 50,000 people, was empty.
William Greenwood, General Manager at Bodnant Garden says “The experience last year of walking through an echoing, empty arch – normally full of smiling faces and the buzz of chatter – felt very poignant. Traditionally, Laburnum is supposed to symbolise melancholy beauty. Normally it’s an incredibly joyous occasion here at Bodnant Garden, but the fact that it was unseen last year really did reflect the sadness of lockdown.”
With many hoping to visit the arch this year, Bodnant Garden have extended their opening hours to allow as many people as possible to safely enjoy the beauty of the arch. Bodnant’s Early and Late Gates will run for three weeks from Saturday 22 May to Sunday 13 June. Entry will be 8am to 8pm on weekdays, and 9am to 7.30pm at weekends.
William adds: “To be able to welcome visitors back again this year will be very special and by extending our opening hours we can safely share the arch with those who missed it last year. We’ll have processes in place to manage all aspects of the visit from advanced booking and car park management to social distancing and one-way systems. By doing this we hope to ensure everyone has a safe and enjoyable experience.”
The Laburnum Arch is a dazzling 55-metre pergola walkway of golden flowers. It is Bodnant Garden’s most visited, photographed, talked about and eagerly anticipated floral event of the year.
It was created by the garden’s founder Henry Pochin, who bought Bodnant Estate in 1874. He completed the walkway in 1880 and while some of the plants have been replaced over its lifetime the arch has been flowering for more than 140 years.
Pochin, a Victorian industrialist, avid horticulturalist and philanthropist, was hugely proud of the garden and opened it to tours from an early stage. His daughter Laura, 1st Lady Aberconway, carried on the tradition and opened the garden weekly to the public in the Edwardian period.
Following a record amount of sunshine in April and May in 2020, the arch produced its earliest blooms in a decade, however with cooler temperatures this year, the arch is back on track.
Frances Llewellyn, Marketing and Communication Officer at Bodnant says “We’ve been monitoring the arch closely and we expect it to be in flower for around three weeks over a period from late May to early June. It’s not an exact science – it all depends on the weather! Follow updates on our Facebook page to help you plan and book your visit.”
While the arch might be the biggest draw for visitors, the rest of the garden is also looking incredible with its world-renowned displays of magnolias, rhododendrons and blossom thanks the amazing work of staff and volunteers.
William Greenwood says: “Since winter the whole team have been working incredibly hard to get the site ready to welcome visitors back again safely, from our Welcome Team managing admissions, to the gardeners catching up with all the garden maintenance, to the catering team preparing our refreshment outlets.
“We’re just delighted the garden is open once again so everyone can enjoy that time outdoors in nature that’s become even more important to all of us. We’re all looking forward to a Laburnum Arch which once again symbolises joy and hope!”
Visits to Bodnant Garden must be booked in advance on the website, and tickets are released every Friday for the following week. For example, those planning to visit for the week of 24 to 30 May will be able to book their tickets from Friday 21 May. Booking closes at 3pm the day before the visit, therefore visitors won’t be able to book on the day; https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/bodnant-garden