National Botanic Gardens of Wales, Llanarthne

Today I paid a visit to the National Botanic Gardenof Wales (NGBW) in Llanarthne. My last visit there was over ten years ago now and it was interesting to see how it has changed.

The gatehouse is the same. You can just make out the inverted ‘pyramid’. this funnels rainwater from the roof and it’s mesmerising when it rains. Today was a mostly sunny and non-rainy day. It still makes an interesting and unique entrance to the garden, either when the weather sunny or raining.

My first trek was to the British Birds of Prey Centre. This has been added since my previous visit to NBGW. I was just in time to see an owl flying demonstration.

Bartok the Ural Owl

The first owl was a five month old Ural Owl called Bartok. He was amazing and loved to fly around. The picture is of him sitting on the bench in front of me. However, his handler did put him next to me a couple of times. I love their feather feet so much, and the rest of them too. Being able to see him swoop just over my head or in front of me was absolutely awesome!

Lily the Little Owl

Next up was Lily, a little owl. And she was little. She’d decided that she’d moult all her tail feathers at once; usually they moult just one or two at a time and let the new feathers grow back before they moult the next feather. Obviously Lily never got the owl post memo about that this year! So, she didn’t fly very far, but it was fascinating to watch her in action. She bobbed close to the ground, whereas Bartok glided above head height.

Allan the Barn Owl

The last owl flown today was Allan the Barn Owl. He was a real character and flew the way he wanted to from his perch back to his handler, sometimes landing where he wanted to. Barn owls are one of my favourites and it was a delight to see Allan fly.

Allan in flight

This very poor picture of Allan in flight was taken moments before he flew right at me and his wing feathers brushed against my hand holding my camera. That took my breath away in joy, delight and wonder.

Leaving the demonstration still smiling I made my way to the Birds of Prey centre. I always find it sad to see animals in cages, no matter how big they are. I know all the birds here are flown; I saw jesses on most of them, if not all of them. I don’t remember all the species they had there, but all were beautiful.

From there I walked towards the domed Great Glasshouse which houses a collection of plants from Australia, South Africa, California, the Mediterranean Basin, the Canary Islands and Chile. This is the largest collection of Mediterranean plants in the Northern Hemisphere.

The Great Glass house is also the largest single-span great glasshouse in the world, designed by Noman Foster and Partners. It sits like a raindrop on the landscape; you can make it out in the background of the above photograph.

I stopped at the cafe in the Great Glasshouse for a late lunch – Earl Grey Tea, black, and a rather delicious beetroot and onion sandwich. I took some time to write in my journal, sketch some flowers and put on some sunblock before wandering around the Glasshouse.

Inside a network of paths wind their way up and down through the various regions of the world. I took many, many photographs of flora and foliage. Many bees were seen busy gathering pollen and drinking nectar; the NBGW has many hives.

It was very warm in the glasshouse, so I was relieved to return to the cooler air of the outside world. I wandered up to the Physician’s Garden. Here I also saw some butterflies; however, they refused to stay still long enough for me to get a photo of them.

Finally, I wandered around the double walled garden and towards the Butterfly house. I didn’t go into the butterfly house on this visit. Maybe my next one.

On my way back to the gatehouse, I passed some fountains. One you’ve seen in the photograph of the glasshouse. Here are a pair of them and in the distance you can make out the roof of the gatehouse.

There are many water features around the garden. I love the sound of water. The gardens are able to stimulate most of our senses – smell, touch, sight and sound.

One of the textile pieces in Y Pot Blodyn Cafe

Taste is taken care of by the various cafes in the NBGW. I stopped in Y Pot Blodyn as I exited the garden. I was ready for another cup of tea! This time it was a traditional black tea, with milk. I also indulged myself in a scone with clotted cream and jam.

On the cafe wall were two textile pieces representing the plants found in the Great Glasshouse. They have been created by members of the Garden’s stitching group. Embroidery, needlefelting and felting along with crochet and knitting were evident.

I took over 170 photos today, many of which will be sources of inspiration for artwork from me I’m sure.

I know I will be returning there again. The autumn could be fun and I may be able to add photos of seeds, capsules and seed pods to my collection.

I also know that I didn’t visit every part of the Garden, so there’s more to explore on another visit.