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!”
BOOKING: Admission to the garden must be prebooked on our website or booking line. Tickets are released every Friday for the week ahead commencing Monday (eg you can book tickets from Friday 21 May for visits 24-30 May) and must be booked at least one day in advance. The booking line closes at 3pm each day. Sorry, but we can’t take same day bookings or admit same day visits.
CAR PARKING: Please arrive within your ticketed time slot and have your booking details ready to show our Welcome Team on arrival at the car park. If you require a disabled parking space we recommend visiting at less busy times, earlier in the morning or later in the day.
Consider car sharing or using public transport (there’s a stop outside the garden gates for the 25 Arriva service from Llandudno). If you are not visiting the garden, but shopping at Bodnant Garden Centre or craft units, please consider coming at off-peak times when the shared car park will be less busy.
VISIT LENGTH: This is a very busy time of the year at Bodnant Garden and we’re expecting many thousands of people to visit. To make sure all those who want to see the arch get their chance, we ask that you spend a maximum of 4 hours in the garden. Why not make a day of it by combining your visit to Bodnant with a visit to our neighbouring National Trust places in North Wales?
QUEUING: We will have a one-way system through the arch and to ensure social distancing we’ll provide marked waiting posts on the Top Lawn. This is to make sure everyone gets the time and space they need for a comfortable stroll through the arch. We appreciate your patience. Come prepared: Bring a brollie if it’s wet; hat, sun block and bottled water if it’s hot!
FOOD AND DRINK: Our Pavilion tearoom is open (with indoor and outdoor seating) and the Dell kiosk is serving takeaway refreshments. Please familiarise yourself with the Covid guidance for seated dining and be aware that seating is reserved for customers only.
DOGS: Dogs are welcome daily at Bodnant Garden in 2021. Please follow our Canine Code: Keep your pets on short (not extendable) leads, have drinking water at hand and poo bags at the ready. Please reconsider bringing your dog for your Laburnum Arch visit if he or she is not good around other dogs… or come during our early or late slots when the garden is quieter.
ACCESS: The Laburnum Arch is near the entrance to the garden on fairly level ground and wheelchair accessible. The approach is by wide, firm gravelled path and a section of lawn. If you have any special requirements such as mobility issues please let us know in advance or on the day and we will do our best to help.