The Library is surrounded by around 9 acres of grounds, which include lawn and formal garden, a craggy knoll which has been left over to natural vegetation, mainly stunted trees and gorse, and open fields, grazed by sheep. At the southernmost point of the site is a knoll which is not grazed and is covered in gorse and with some more mature trees. The site is an extremely exposed location, with open aspects to the sea exposing it to high winds and rain, and in the summer the harsh effects of the strong sun. Originally part of the Gogerddan Estate, there are a number of examples of the original planting such as mature Scots Pine still to be found.
The Library has been undertaking a long term plan to make its gardens more environmentally friendly and enhance the natural environment to encourage biodiversity in all parts of the site. The fields are let for grazing, whilst the two “knoll” areas are left to nature, with occasional management in relation to oversize trees.
Although the gardens surrounding the Library are required to contribute towards the impression of formality and compliment the Grade 2* listed status of the building, recent improvements to the gardens have included a long term vision to make them more sustainable and to encourage biodiversity.
The main actions that have been taken are:
- Adopting sustainable gardening practices
The Library has stopped buying in annual bedding, instead all annual flowers have been grown from seed and are aimed at attracting pollinators. Echium, cornflower, ecsholtzia, cosmos and geranium are all part of the planting scheme.
Flowering perennials were bought in as plug plants and will be grown on for future years. There are also a number of areas that have been planted with heathers that give permanent ground cover and the range of varieties ensure that there is always something in flower at every time of the year. The planters at the front of the building, which are particularly exposed to extremes of dryness and heat, have been planted with lavender which can tolerate the harsh conditions. A number of areas in the front gardens have now been planted with flowering bulbs which are left in situ, rather than being replaced by summer bedding which had been the previous practice.
The gardens on the north side of the main steps have been cleared and replanted with a selection of low maintenance shrubs and perennials that are bee and insect friendly. The fence at the top of the garden has been planted with the rambling rose “Seagull” which is very attractive to bees.
- Carrying out environmental improvements
The Library’s car park has a hedgerow on the east and part of the south boundary, and a new hedgerow has been planted across the Library’s field to the east. On the northern boundary with the University fields and immediately surrounding the cark park the Library unstable and dangerous Leylandii was removed and the sterile conditions created by these conifers have been replaced with formal laurel trimmed bushes in the car park, and by native species such as crab apple and cherry trees on the northern boundary.
- Being insect friendly
In the formal gardens around the Library we have consciously planted a number of insect friendly shrubs such as cotoneaster, hebe, fushia, buddleia, cotton lavender, artemesia and laurel, as well as allium, sedum, and hybrid roses.
The Library has also ceased to routinely use Pesticides and herbicides, only where absolutely necessary on an exception-only basis.
- On-site composting
All garden waste is composted on site in three specially constructed compost bins. This compost is periodically removed and used as a mulch around the gardens.
Over the last few years the Library has made a great deal of effort to improve the condition, impact, and sustainability of the gardens immediately surrounding the building. The aim of these improvements has been to improve biodiversity, as well as to create a beautiful environment in which members of the public and Library staff can relax. In the next few years the planting will mature and it is hoped that the gardens will make a major contribution to wellbeing. The Library has started to involve the gardens within the Library’s volunteering scheme and hopes that this will offer unique opportunities to volunteers.