I have visited Bodnant Gardens several times over the years. The recent TV programme, a Garden in Snowdonia, brought it to life in a different way but I had already established some new personal connections to the place.

Bodnant clings to the side of a valley above the River Conwy between Conway and Llanrwst, benefiting from the relatively warm but wet climate. The rhododendrons and azaleas have always been spectacular, thriving in the acidic soil there. Although it's been a bit neglected in recent years, in May, when the rhododendrons are at their best, Bodnant is a magical place. It's been good to have a few rhododendrons here in our Finchcroft Lane garden, although it's a bit much to say they thrive here as they do at Bodnant.

I discovered a few years ago that my great-grandfather, William Williams, had been a farm servant at Bodnant in the 1860's. He was the son of Owen and Gwen who farmed at Tan-y-Graig, a hill farm above Llanrwst, between 1840 and the 1860's. Only piles of stones now remain of the farm buildings and indeed the Williams family had moved to the nearby Gorsedd y Grucyn farm by 1871 so this is not a recent decline.

In the 1871 census William lived at Old Bodnod a house on the Bodnant estate; he worked as a live-in farm servant for Owen Jones. William married Ellen Hughes, a girl from Flintshire who lived near Bodnant with her Aunt and Uncle, Margaret and Robert Hughes in a cottage called Gwyndy which still exists today. According to the 1861 census, Robert was a coal merchant and had previously been a farmer.

Before I did this piece of family history, Sandy and I went on a river cruise up the Danube. One of the family groups on the boat was the McLaren family including Lady Aberconway who featured in the programme on Bodnant; her son-in-law the 7th Earl of Onslow was also on board and was a most entertaining conversationalist and inquisitor of the "expert" speakers we had on board. The Earl is an active politician in the House of Lords and has also appeared on Have I Got News For You

You have no rights to post comments