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Botanic Garden is 'Greatest Wonder'

WALES
29 June 2006

The Great Glasshouse at the Botanic Garden of Wales has been voted Wales' top of 'Seven Wonders' after a nationwide poll. The result was announced by the Western Mail after an exhaustive four-month search around the country for it's greatest wonders.

Norman Foster's Great Glasshouse 

 Wales is usually more famous for its sheep than it's
botanic garden but that is changing
Image © Foster & Partners

Designed by the world-famous architect, Norman Foster, this magnificent centrepiece of the Botanic Gardens was officially opened just six years ago.

It is home to more than 1,000 different species of plants and is reputedly the largest single-span green house in the world.

Roy Thomas, chief executive of the Gardens, was overjoyed by the public vote of confidence last night.

"I'm quite breath-taken," he said, "I'm delighted for the staff and for the garden and that there's fantastic support around Wales given the difficult times we've had."

Less than two years ago the £43m project came close to shutting amid a funding crisis but workers and managers have turned around the site's fortunes and hope today's vote will herald further successes.

"The Great Glasshouse is a Noah's Ark for plants and is a great vision that we have to hold on to and develop," Mr Thomas said. "We're looking to the future with great confidence and looking to fulfil the vision of creating a world-class institution."

The vote put the Gardens ahead of Mount Snowdon (Wales' tallest mountain), Welsh lamb, and the pop star Tom Jones.

Thomas says the wondrous achievement of founding a major new botanic garden is not to be sniffed at.

"The creation of the first national botanic garden of the 21st century anywhere in the world, and the first to be created in the UK for nearly 200 years, is an event of global significance that has brought international recognition and prestige to Wales.

"At the heart of the Garden is the Great Glasshouse, an iconic symbol for modern Wales promoting the importance of our environment.

"The geometry of the design by Lord Foster was so complex that it never even existed on paper - so a computer-based vision was brought to life with the most advanced technology.

"Inspired by the low surrounding hills and the trace of the formal oval garden in front of the former Middleton Hall, it is a simply stunning structure which, with the mature plants, has a real 'wow factor'. The Glasshouse is an international Noah's Ark of rare plants.

"It is a world of the most fascinating, the most bizarre, extraordinary and beautiful.

"It really is a modern day wonder of Wales and continues to gain international as well as local and national support."

The fact that Snowdon was voted second also shows what a nature-loving people the Welsh are.

Snowdonia National Park spokeswoman Llinos Angharad said, "This is extremely good news for one of Wales' most iconic symbols. Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) is much more than the highest mountain in Wales.

"Its history, geology and ecology make the mountain a truly unique and wonderful location. It's a place of legend and adventure, beauty and adversity. It's immutable yet fragile, exciting yet tranquil. This wonderful mountain is also home to a variety of special plants and animals and well over half-a-million visitors come to enjoy its beauty every year.

"It is of no surprise to us that so many Western Mail readers have voted for Snowdonia.

"Now our challenge is to ensure that all these special qualities will be preserved so that future generations will be able to appreciate Yr Wyddfa and that it will remain one of the Seven Wonders of Wales forever."

In a land still known as a land of rugby and song it may seem odd to international observers that neither the Millennium Stadium nor Tom Jones have found a place. But the Welsh are clearly putting plants firmly on the map.

 

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