Local arboretums to explore this autumn
All change! The trees are turning from green to gorgeous red-brick, crimson and gold - and the best places to see them are these beautiful local arboretums in Leicestershire and just beyond.
Autumn means it’s time for nature’s annual art exhibition – leaves changing from green to yellow, orange, red and crimson and every shade in between. Basically if you’re going to head out with the family/dog for a hearty weekend stomp, you won’t find a better time of year to do it. Fancy one of these this weekend?
Shady Lane Arboretum, Leicester
A well-known arboretum tucked away on the southern boundary of Leicester but despite its close proximity to the city, the site has a real sense of being in the countryside. As well as over 500 species of trees, native trees and shrubs and a sown wildflower grassland the site also has a rich history, filled with POWs, pigs and peasants! The north-west part of the site, known as Piggy’s Hollow is the site of a former medieval moated manor house and fish ponds. Here you can see tall wild hedgerows, ancient earthworks, and mature stands of pines. There’s also man-made dams which follow the valley of the brook and look out for the huge old sycamore trees that line Shady Lane – the line of trees, some people say was originally planted in 1850 although we’re not entirely sure if any of the original trees still exist. Free to visit.
Bluebell Nursery and Arboretum, Ashby de la Zouch
While this is actually a family-run garden centre, they also have a beautiful woodland garden which covers nine acres. Most of the large trees are still young but many of the shrubs and smaller trees already show their full beauty of form and habit and the arboretum has become a beautiful woodland walk with rare plant treasures on display. If you’re a real nature enthusiast, take one of the guided tours around the woodland garden – now is a good time to visit as the autumn colours are starting to emerge. The tour lasts approx 2 hours and includes a refreshment but must be booked in advance. Six – 10 people £12.50 each, otherwise £5 for adults and kids are free.
The arboretum at this county park contains a wide ranging collection of exotic tree species including Coast and Dawn Redwoods, Himalayan Birches, Japanese Maples, Evergreen Oaks, Hemlocks and Eucalyptus. Enjoy the splashes of vibrant colours from Japanese Maples during these autumn months.
Attenborough Arboretum, Leicester
The stunning Arboretum site extends to about five acres, and forms part of the land that used to belong to an old farmhouse that still exists nearby and has been converted into maisonettes. The Arboretum – although closed at the moment – features possibly the only surviving example in the city of a medieval ridge-and-furrow field, and also contains two large ponds, complete with a well-constructed boardwalk to provide access for observation and pond-dipping If you’re wondering about the name, then yes the opening ceremony was conducted by non other than, Sir David Attenborough. Careful thought went into the planting of the trees as it is designed to display the native trees in the sequence in which they arrived in this country following the ending of the last ice-age, approximately 10,000 years ago. Free to visit when it reopens.
Bodenham Arboretum, near Kidderminster
A modern arboretum located in a protected valley just outside Kidderminster over some 54 acres, it features mature woodland, specimen trees and shrubs. This Arboretum lies around a big pool where many rare and ornamental trees can be seen in flower or fruit at all times of the year; their autumn colours are a special beauty. More than 3,000 species of tree and shrubs include important collections of Acers, North American Oaks and Alders. All of these are catalogued and labelled in book form and computer . From the higher reaches of the Arboretum enjoy extensive views to the Clent Hills and surrounding countryside.
A historic, beautifully maintained park and the oldest opened way back way in 1852, known by locals as the Arb, it has a collection of more than 800 trees. Although it was never been confirmed, the arboretum has been widely said to have been the inspiration for J.M Barrie’s Neverland. J.M Barrie did indeed live in Nottingham before he wrote Peter Pan, so it’s definitely a possibility. Make sure to enjoy the Tree Trail and Heritage Trail when at the Arboretum to fully appreciate the park’s rich history.
Walsall Arboretum, near Birmingham
A Victorian public park with formal gardens, run by the council, located close to Walsall town centre, near Birmingham. Part of the park and surrounding housing are covered by the Arboretum conservation area. It’s one of the borough’s most beautiful and best-loved parks with a boating lake, lakeside café, tennis courts and open playing fields. Free to visit.
Kew Gardens, London
I love Kew Gardens not too far for Leicestershire dwellers too (Kew station is a five minute walk away from the gardens). There’s an awesome 18 meter high Treetop Walkway overlooking the gardens and there are often cool art exhibitions to scope out. If you make the trip on a chilly day you can warm up in the iconic Victorian glasshouses. Adult tickets from £17.50, child tickets from £5.50. No dogs. Pre-booking essential. kew.org
Batsford Arboretum, Cotswolds
Fancy a Cotswolds day trip? The 55 acre is a big hitter in the warmer months with it’s National Collection of Japanese Flowering Cherries but also has a pretty autumn offering with reddish-purple Japanese maple trees lining the walkways and ornate bridges making it Instagram catnip. There are several photography workshops running throughout the season too, if you fancy going pro. Head to the Garden Terrace Café for a post-walk coffee or afternoon tea, and pick up a few plants on the way out from the garden centre which stocks many of the plants found in the Arboretum. Adult tickets £8.95, child tickets £3.50. Dogs welcome on short leads. Pre-booking essential. batsarb.co.uk