Holly and the Ivy

Just before Christmas we had a great decoration making event at our site in Coelbren. Lots of the decorations were inspired by and used materials collected from the countryside, including log reindeers and decorated pine cones. We also had a go at making wreaths. While I was out and about in the woods the week before, collecting greenery for people to use, I started thinking about the different plants associated with Christmas and wondering about the history of wreaths and why holly and ivy are festive plants.


The idea of a traditional Christmas tree dates back to the Victorian period, but for hundreds of years before this, people have been bringing greenery into their homes in the winter months.

In pagan times, people brought evergreen plants such as holly and ivy into their homes at the darkest time of year to ward off evil spirits, remind them that spring will come again and celebrate the promise of new growth.

More recently, Christian symbolism has been attached to the plants. For example, holly is said to represent the crown of thorns, with the berries as drops of blood. Ivy has to cling to trees to grow and this is said to represent people growing with God.

Many songs and carols have been written about holly and ivy and they are a core part of our Christmas traditions.

Wreaths date back to the Roman times, where laurel wreaths were worn as a symbol of status and achievement. Christmas wreaths are traditionally made from evergreen plants such as holly, ivy and laurel, which symbolise nature battling against winter. The shape of a continuous circle represents eternal life. Putting wreath on your front door is also a traditional way of welcoming people into the home in winter.

Finally, as well as warding off evil spirits, religious symbolism and festive cheer, bringing greenery into your home has been shown to have a positive impact on mental and physical health. In a time when society seems to be getting more and more disconnected from the natural world, Christmas is a time when we can really appreciate what is around us by heading out for a walk or bringing a little bit of outside in.

Pictures from our day of crafting are on Facebook.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from everyone at National Trust Brecon Beacons and Monmouthshire!


Community Engagement Ranger


What did you get upto this summer?

Getting kids outdoors and closer to nature
You may or may not have heard of the National Trust’s campaign – 50 Things to do before you’re 11 ¾…

This initiative was set up a few years ago in response to information about how today’s generation of kids are spending far less time outdoors doing the things we all used to do like climbing trees, running around in the rain and making mud pies.


This summer, we ran a very successful bushcraft club at our site at Coelbren and Henrhyd Falls, with the help of local bushcraft expert Angus. The aim was simply to get kids out and about playing and thinking outdoors, learning new skills, making friends and having fun.


Over the four sessions we did a whole variety of activities – firelighting techniques, whittling and sanding our own walking sticks, building shelters, making mini shelters for action figures, archery, toasting marshmallows, making our own paint and doing some cave paintings and aboriginal style art, cooking Welsh cakes on the fire, clay modelling, bug hunting and damming the stream!


These are some of the pictures of what we got up to – everyone had a great time and got suitably wet and muddy!


Keep an eye out on our Facebook page and website for more kids’ events coming up soon across our sites, the next one is a kite flying day on the Sugarloaf this Saturday the 30th of August with rangers Jess and Ben. There will also be things going on at Coelbren during the October half term so watch this space!

For more information take a look at the National Trust’s 50 Things website.

Community Engagement Ranger