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The BBC's Wyre Davies
"It was built to house a Mediterranean landscape"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 24 May, 2000, 18:23 GMT 19:23 UK
Botanic garden proves a hit
The Great Glasshouse has been designed by Norman Foster and partners
The glasshouse is one of the biggest in the world
The National Botanic Garden of Wales, which revealed its floral treasures for the first time on Wednesday, has received a thumbs up from its opening day visitors.

The 43.3m millennium project, boasting among its attractions the world's largest greenhouse, attracted queues ahead of its opening near Llanarthne in Dyfed.

Those who made the journey were not disappointed by the exhibits on display under the huge glass dome, which has been designed by acclaimed architects Norman Foster and Partners.

The site's director, Professor Charles Stirton, said that the gardens, which are the first to be built in the UK for 200 years, would be around for hundreds of years to come.

"For those of us who have been fortunate to help build the garden, or share in its building, it has been a once in generations opportunity," said Mr Stirton.

"In 400 years time the garden will be a rare survivor of the hundreds of millennial lottery-funded projects."

'Overwhelmed'

Pensioners Charles and Lilian Manley travelled more than 60 miles from Cardiff, South Wales, to see the elaborate garden, which has been funded by a 22m grant from the Millennium Commission.

Mr Manley, 71, said: "It is fantastic. The design and the surroundings are magnificent.


Plants from the Mediterranean basin, South Africa, Australia, Chile and California shelter beneath the glass roof
The glasshouse contains streams, ravines and waterfalls
"It is certainly a worthwhile Millennium project because it will get better with time. It should put Wales on the map."

Local gardener Eva Ryan, 36, said: "I have been watching the growth of the garden from a distance. Now I'm here I'm totally overwhelmed. It is fantastic."

The attraction's centrepiece is the oval-shaped Great Glass House, believed to be the largest of its type in the world.

It features a tilted dome and houses plants from threatened Mediterranean environments.

Other attractions include a water discovery centre on stilts above one of seven lakes, a garden dedicated to the understanding of plant genetics and woodland containing species of trees from all over the world.

The team behind the gardens aimed to blend "history with a 21st century outlook" by incorporating buildings and parkland of an 18th century estate alongside newer developments.

Professor Charles Stirton stressed both the enjoyable and educational nature of the site.

"The infrastructure will only be as good as the opportunities it provides our visitors to learn about and enjoy nature, horticulture and landscape," he said.

Environmental awareness

With its emphasis on conservation and sustainability, commission chairman Chris Smith praised the botanic gardens' contribution to the tourism landscape.

"We are all becoming increasingly aware of our responsibility for the national environment and these magnificent gardens will play a vital role in promoting the importance of our natural surroundings and our dependence on them," he said.

The gardens, which have their official opening in July, will have another botanical attraction as a not-too-distant neighbour.

The 79m Eden Project, a millennium-funded project near St Austell in Cornwall, opened its first phase this month.

Featuring yet more vast domed greenhouses, the attraction aims to show humankind's dependence on the plant world.

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