Bodnant with bodran

I met Jo yesterday for lunch and a walk in Bodnant Garden. I drove like a mad thing down the A55, thinking I would be late and parked the car and found I still had five minutes to spare. So I nipped into the Ladies before meeting Jo outside the cafe and met her in there already, having the same thought. That rather set the tone for the afternoon. Looking at and loving and commenting on the same things, the words falling over each other to get out. Each of us noticing a fantastically shaped trunk, a sudden rush of scent on the air, a vivid fountain of azalea blossom and turning to the other at the same moment: "Did you see? Oh, look. What's that? does that grow for you? I really love acers, poppies, that colour of red, everthing. I love everything. I want everything. Can we find any purple?"

The cafe was heaving with old age pensioners and coach trippers. We found a table and were joined by two elderly ladies. When my daughter was about thirteen she was said to me angrily "Why do some old ladies think it's ok to be rude to me because they're old and I'm not?" Jo was next to just such an old lady, pushing her chair and huffing and sucking her teeth, intent on taking up twice her allotted room so that Jo was squashed up against a pillar and could go no further, all the time determinedly not meeting our eyes. We looked at each other and hoped the gardens were not going to full of jostling elbows and people walking too slowly.

But the great thing about Bodnant is that it absorbs people. Around the terraces and the laburnum walk there were numbers of elderly visitors (and patience, patience, I know my time will come) but the paths that move away from the formal gardens and down to the river are steep and many. Eventually you lose the crowd and simply wander down and down through the rhododendrons and azaleas, fizzing and exploding with colour among the deep green of the trees and the depths of ferns and the little streams, carving their green away through moss covered rocks, new sounds of water around every corner and birds calling.

Mostly you are in a green world finding your way down the hill to the river in the bottom, but here and there a view opens up between the huge trees and you look across and away to the mountains of Snowdonia, reminding you that this cultivated wildness is a creation of man and all around is true wild, rising in ranges of hills away from you as far as the eye can see.

Climbing back up the hill you come back into the formal gardens with terracing and long pools surrounded by stone paths, floating with water lilies. Wisteria is fountaining down the pergolas and roses are glossy and ranked in a formal bed below the house. I love the wisteria but the roses are just not my style. I love the old fashioned bush roses mixed in with other things, their scent stopping you in your tracks but that is not the way they do things here. The house is lovely though, you can't go in but it is a good size, not so huge as to make it beyond imagining that you could live there, walk these terraces, have your own hideouts in the depths of the rhododendrons, your own pet cemetery and secret places.

The laburnum walk was in full flower and is the only photo which survived a day of failing batteries in my camera. Jo and her husband thought how lovely it would be to be married there, years ago when it was church or registry office or nothing, and it would, a living nave in an outside church.

We wandered into the nursery, quite impossible to walk through without buying something. I bought a romneya coulterii (may have got this wrong) with silver foliage and white poppy-like flowers and a blackleaved elder with dark pink flowers, sambucus nigra. Jo bought a beautiful white cistus with purple blotches in the centre of the flowers.

And then, well if you are going to do this sort of thing properly you have to have a cup of tea and a piece of cake, don't you, to finish with, but not in the overstuffed cafe but at another nursery back down the valley where a pot of lovage jumped into my hand and Jo bought a couple of courgettes to make up for the seeds eaten by mice. We parted planning to meet at an open garden in a week or so and I zoomed my way through food shopping and making uncooked chocolate cake for younger daughter and younger son and his girlfriend who are staying for the weekend.

They all arrived, travel frazzled and tired but soon the place and the view and the glass of wine and spicy lamb with couscous had done what they should. Ian lit a fire and we sat and talked. Friends and gardens and plants and cake, family and food and wine and a fire. A good day.


  1. How absolutely lovely! I have always wanted to go to Bodnant - I want to even more now! Funny how plants just 'jump' into your hands at nurseries. Very jealous of the Sambucus Nigra - I've been after one of those for ages. What a lovely blog about a lovely day.

  2. That sounds just like my kind of day, magic. I had a sambucus nigra in the garden in France but the field mice ate it.

  3. It sounds like a great day. Will put Bodnant on my list of things to see when I finally make it to Wales! I know exactly what you mean about imagining yourself living there, I always do it when I go to houses, but can't do it on the ones like Chatsworth as they're just too grand. A beautifully written account.

  4. Wow - what a day!! I am green with envy! The Laburnam walk sounds particularly luxurious as I have never seen anything like that. I am quite proud of my one laburnam that does not seem to be deer-fodder. Isn't it great that you have managed to meet 'Jo' and have enough fun to make another date! Pictures???

  5. What a brilliant account of the day, and wasnt it lovely.i havent blogged least the one photo which turned out was worthwhile.. see you soon..xx

  6. I almost felt as though I was with you at Bodnant - you described it so beautifully. I love Snowdonia, Betsy-cowyd (sorry about the spelling) and that area, it reminds me of my late father who spent many weekends walking there in the winter months and loved it so much.

  7. Bodnant sounds lovely, I have never been. I must look up exactly where it is and plan a trip. Thanks for the laburnum pic. I have a tree and admire the walkways in various gardens.
    A perfect end to the day too by the sound of it.

  8. I have a sambucus nigra-very striking.

    Another lovely day with Jo.
    My mother in law has a caravan at Porthmadog and we love to travel through Snowdonia. I will have to see when Bodnant is. Maybe we can all gatecrash another time!

    warm wishes

  9. Sounds amazing and I have neer been there. A lovely account of your day and I felt I was walking with you and particularly wanted to squish the old biddy up against a pillar - not very generous of me but there you are!!
    Pouring, really pouring with rain here today - the ducks are swimming in the middle of the lawn but it is just to wet to get a pic - love mousie

  10. Oh your day sounds perfect. I was so impressed as the picture downloaded, thought it was your green house until I saw the people and read the blog! Good to catch up.

  11. I have just read 'journey out of darkness' which is an incredible piece of writing. To go through what you did and to be able to write about it so poignantly and yet still with some humour is incredible was amazed to see you were an accountant sorry but it just didn't fit with your obvious writing talent.

    Glad your meeting with Jo went well remembered your comment about your concerns on Exmoors post not so long ago.

    The was a fantastic picture of a Laburnam walk on the front of my Gardening mag (Gardeners World?)this month can't remember where it was taken though.

  12. Thanks for the comments. Yes the simplest things in life give me the most pleasure!
    For the counter you go to and the instructions are quite simple.
    Fot the pics I go to Google Images, a wonderful resource tool.

  13. Hi again Elizabeth - thank for the lovely comments and wishes on my blog. When I was waiting and so frightened it really helped me to read your early blog of your journey through darkness. I thought 'if she could go there and tell the tale I can try to be as brave' - thank you so much for your courage to write about your experience. I think about you often and will think about you and breathe for you too when I am at my healing place - it has a name, Witty's Lagoon.

  14. Oh YES!!! I had been thinking about your visit to Bodnant, imagining the laburnum walk and the rhodedendrons and wondering if it was busy - and hurrah, it's all here..... I always say that house would do me just fine - as you say, not tooo big and those views! the cafe is grim though and I hate that you have to go through the garden centre/tat shop to get out (not even National Trust)....and there's a new tunnel now isn't there?
    Thank-you for this - really loved it.

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