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Take a boat tour to the floating Ballast Seed Garden

The floating Ballast Seed Garden Arnolfini, Max McClure

Press release issued: 18 June 2014

Members of the public will have the opportunity to learn about the city’s trade and maritime past during a boat trip to the floating Ballast Seed Garden tomorrow [Thursday 19 June].

The trip led by University of Bristol Botanic Garden volunteer guide, Ann Brake, will leave from the Arnolfini at 5.30 pm and sail through Bristol’s Floating Harbour. 

During the tour people will be introduced to the historic Welsh Back Bridge and the site of Bristol’s former castle before boarding the Ballast Seed Garden to learn about the project and take a closer look at the plants.

All the plants have been grown from seeds identified as ‘incidental cargo’, brought to Bristol in the ballast holds of sailing vessels from around the world in the days when the city was a major European port, particularly between the 18th and early 20th century.

The ballast seeds have been cultivated and grown to create a floating Ballast Seed Garden using a disused grain barge, which is currently moored alongside Castle Park.

The public artwork has been developed as part of the Seeds of Change project which was conceived by Brazilian artist Maria Thereza Alves as part of the 2007 Arnolfini exhibition Port City. Bristol City Council and the University’s Botanic Garden have since worked with the artist and Arnolfini to develop the project.

Nick Wray, Curator of the Botanic Garden, said: “Unusual plant species - with names such as Squirting Cucumber and Love in the Mist - were transported to the city in the ballast holds of sailing vessels when Bristol was a major European port.  The boat tour is the perfect opportunity for people to see growing a living history of Bristol.”

The Floating Ballast Seed Garden boat tour will take place on Thursday 19 June 2014 from 5.30 to 7.30 pm. Meet at Arnolfini box office.

Tickets are priced at £7, £5 concessions and advanced booking is required.

Members of the public are invited to share their photos or tweet during the trip @arnolfiniarts #ballastseed

Further information

About the Botanic Garden

The Botanic Garden is at The Holmes, Stoke Park Road, Stoke Bishop, Bristol BS9 1JG.

June, July, August and September.  Open Monday to Sunday from 10 am to 4.30 pm. 

Admission is £3.50 adults; free to University staff and retired staff, Friends of the Botanic Garden, students and children under 16.

Dogs (except registered disability assistance dogs) are not permitted in the Botanic Garden.

The Garden is largely accessible for wheelchairs and mobility scooters with a designated path leading around the Garden and glasshouses. Disabled toilet facilities are available on site.

The garden also offers private day, evening and weekend guided tours for groups of ten upwards and gardening or any other leisure clubs.  Please contact the Garden for further information on tel 0117 331 4906 or email  There is a charge for the guide.

Directions to The Holmes

From the city centre go to the top of Whiteladies Road, at the junction and traffic lights go straight ahead across Durdham Down towards Stoke Bishop. At the traffic lights go straight ahead and take the first turning on the right into Stoke Park Road, The Holmes is 150 m on the right.

Members of the public wishing to support the work of the Botanic Garden should join the Friends of the Garden.  For more information go to the Friends of the Garden or write to Susan Redfern, The Membership Secretary, 24 Dublin Crescent, Henleaze, Bristol BS9 4NA.

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