Anne of Green Gables famously said “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers”. Autumn, or Fall, on Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, is undoubtedly worth a visit even if you’re not a fan of LM Montgomery’s dreamy book. But let me tell you a secret – North Wales is pretty good too. We have awesome mountain tops, miles of breathtaking coastline and more than our fair share of stunning National Trust gardens.
Our favourite, and happily – the nearest to home – is beautiful Bodnant Garden, which on a sunny October afternoon is a proper treat.
We’re in our 3rd year of National Trust membership but shamefully we’ve only ever visited Bodnant in March / April, when my parents come to stay and early summer, for the rhododendrons (and the now famous laburnum arch, obviously).
So when we woke up on a “free” Saturday with a bright forecast a visit to Bodnant Garden seemed like a no-brainer.
It didn’t disappoint.
There’s something a bit magical that always fascinates me about visiting Bodnant Garden. When you arrive the car park is always chock-full and you think the whole of North Wales has had the same idea. Visitors funnel under the bridge towards the ticket office in their hoards waving their green membership cards. Then, moments later when you’ve stepped beyond the first lawn area, it’s as if the “National Trust” fairy has waved her magic wand, everyone disappears and you feel like you have the garden to yourself.
We opted for the long walk down to “Far End” through the hidden valley taking in the whole 80 acre garden. So nice. Pretty deck chairs are provided at the top of the paddock for a quiet moment to take in the view, or if you’re walking the opposite way round – to collapse into at the top of the hill. How thoughtful!
We expected to be blown away by the dazzling autumn display and we were, of course. Reds, ambers, golds. The trees glowing in the afternoon sunshine.
What really surprised us was the number of flowering shrubs still happily blooming away despite the changing season. The garden was incredibly colourful – every bit as good as May/June, with a lot more space to wander.
I’m not great with plant names but the hydrangeas were spectacular. My schoolgirl plant knowledge, mainly acquired from my green fingered Mother, helped me recognise a handful of highlights. Brightly coloured Asters, climbing Clematis and hot coloured Dahlias and Echinacea strutting through the borders. The humble bright pink Cyclamens are a real sign-post for autumn popping up all over the garden. And the roses were breathtaking. Who knew that so many gorgeous roses bloomed right through October – probably Monty Don, to be honest, but definitely not me! The Italian terraces were a sight to behold, full of colour and big blousy David Austin English roses in pinks and whites and yellows.
SNACK WITH THE SQUIRRELS
The Old Mill is perfectly placed for a pit stop and with cute tables and chairs overlooking the pretty dell. We sat with a very welcome hot coffee watching the busy birds and scurrying squirrels racing up and down the trees.
Did I mention the trees? There’s 40 UK Champion trees in the Garden, and 130 Welsh Champion Trees – dating back 200 years. The Giant Sequoia at 20m is the tallest tree in the Garden and was planted in 1890. Imagine the stories it would tell if it could talk? It made me think of that scene in Lord of the Rings where the forest trees come to life and save the day!
Great news for the 4 legged friends too. They can enjoy Bodnant Garden right through the winter from October to March. In the summer #WagWednesday is a popular treat for our fur babies who can enjoy walkies from 5-8pm.
We walked about 6000 steps around the perimeter of the garden but you could easily get over 10,000 with some zigzagging of the other paths. Wheelchair and pushchair access is good with plenty of routes available for the less mobile. Also if you just want to pop in for a quick visit, stroll round the borders and look at the view – that’s fine too.
During the spring months you must come and see the swathes of golden daffodils and the breathtaking forest of bluebells. Later on you can catch 5 national collections including the famous Magnolia and Rhododendron. And if you haven’t seen the world famous Laburnum Arch there’s really no excuse.
The Garden is open 10-5pm every day. If you’re not a National Trust member, a standard adult entry will cost you £13.20 and a child £6.60 and there’s discounts for groups.
There’s a few precious weeks of October left so if you have a free day Bodnant Garden is calling, and you won’t be sorry.
That’s all for now,