TV/radio gardener and horticulturist Christine Walkden spent the summer journeying across the British Isles in a hot air balloon. From this striking new perspective she flew across the country calling in at some of the most beautiful gardens on her way. The new programme is not just about gardens, but people's relationships with gardens. Ponthafren's garden was chosen to represent the community garden category in the episode focusing on Mid Wales.
Each area has its own features, included topiary figures and sculptures made out of all manner of materials, including a recycled bath and washing machine innards! Iolo Williams opened the garden once the wildlife walk was complete and said it was ideal for wildlife - the dragonfly larvae had moved into the pond already!
Helen and Will then moved on to interview Ponthafren garden volunteer Jan Rogers – who is turning into something of a regular guest on this blog (she recently wrote – Volunteering whilst getting benefits and Mental Health Act 1983 – Code of Practice: the review (in England)). As Jan picked apples from a loaded tree, before moving into the greenhouse for tomatoes and cucumbers, she answered questions about how her involvement as a volunteer gardener at Ponthafren had impacted on her own wellbeing. She also spoke passionately about what she had gained from her experience – including increased confidence, new qualifications and the opportunity to work outside.
She explained that a variety of funders had contributed to the garden improvements over the years, including work to make the garden more accessible to all. In the last few years new raised beds and an extra greenhouse have been added, and also new seating areas. These projects are often planned, costed and built by the garden volunteers themselves, and there is a sense of huge achievement as each idea is brought to life.
Volunteers have been able to attend Coleg Harlech (now WEA Cymru) courses in Drystone Walling, Art & Design in the Garden, and Landscape Design, whilst completing various projects. Jan said "some of us were lucky enough to complete a 12 month Diploma in Horticultural based Progression (14 units including a wide range of topics from herbs, grafting, and seed collecting to writing business plans, to name a few). I personally would have never taken part in this type of course if it had not run at Ponthafren."
Jan heads up the team of garden volunteers at the Centre. Each volunteer chooses what area they want to work in, "one lady can't stand for long but she loves to sit and pot things on. We take a lot of cuttings, and the plants are put in our yard for people to buy which is our money to buy seeds, compost and tools for next year. This is the great thing with our garden, there is something for everyone. The only thing that I do insist on is that everyone enjoys it!"
Jan arrives with a basket full of veggies for an outdoor cookery demonstration.
Contrast this image with one taken about 15 years ago when volunteers started work at Ponthafren to transform the garden.
All in all everyone had a thoroughly enjoyable day - though obviously Will and Helen were working non-stop throughout to film the best shots for the programme! We all noticed during the filming how often noises intrude to interrupt a session. Ponthafren garden always seems very peaceful, but on the day the BBC arrived a whole host of sounds came and went, including: squealing seagulls, bottle bank emptying across the river, workmen building a shed next door, motorbikes roaring along Milford Road, dogs barking and planes soaring high overhead. A tip for anyone wanting to get into the TV business: learn and practice patience as a key skill!
The new series Glorious Gardens From Above will now start broadcasting on Monday 10 November on BBC 1 at 3.45pm daily (please note change of broadcast date!)
There are 15 episodes in total. The Mid Wales episode, in which Ponthafren Association features, will transmit on Wednesday 12 November. It will also feature Powis Castle Gardens, and the Dingle Garden near Welshpool.
You can join a Drop-in Gardening session with Jan at Ponthafren Association
every Wednesday and Friday 11am - 2.30pm.
Julia runs Foodwise sessions at Ponthafren Association every Thursday 2 - 3pm.
You can find out more here.