The weather has been somewhat of a damp squib of late – damp being very much the operative word – so waking up one morning at the beginning of the week to a beautiful, sunny (if cold) day made a refreshing change and as we had a day or two of annual leave it didn’t take long for us to resolve to spend the day doing something pleasant that would take us out into the fresh air.
The possibility of walks in our local area, around Oxford, was mooted but in the end we plumped for going a little further afield to visit the UK National Arboretum at Westonbirt near Tetbury in Gloucestershire.
It had been many years since I’d last visited the arboretum and as we made our way along the motorway I was looking forward to our visit. As I was soon to find out, the arboretum is home to some real treasures and I wasn’t going to be disappointed!
Although it’s now run by the Forestry Commission and is open to public visitors, the estate that was later to become the arboretum was inherited in the 1800s by a wealthy land owner, Robert Holford, who funded trips by Victorian plant-hunters to far-flung corners of what was then the British empire.
The specimens they brought back with them were planted in the estate and formed the basis of the tree collection at Westonbirt. Some more modern introductions of an entirely different sort raised a smile as we stumbled across a carving of “Gromit”, of Wallace and Gromit fame, on our way through the grounds!
The original arboretum, now called the “Old Arboretum”, was extended by the Holford family to encompass “Silk Wood” and, after a short discussion on whether we should walk or have lunch first (it was lunch time, after all), we decided some fresh air should be the first item on the agenda it was on the walk round Silk Wood that we started our visit.
The arboretum’s home to some internationally important collections and has an extensive collection of Japanese maples so we were treated to tantalising glimpses of brilliant reds and golds backlit by the early afternoon sun as we made our way along the pathways through the wood.
The route includes what’s called the “Maple Loop” so we had the chance to get up-close-and-personal with some truly beautiful trees and the slideshow, below, hopefully gives a small taster of some of the splendor on offer.
The beautiful trees and the fresh air combined with a very tasty lunch in the arboretum’s restaurant and a cup of tea and a cake before we finally left at the end of the afternoon all added up to a pretty perfect day out.
- Westonbirt Arboretum – http://www.forestry.gov.uk/westonbirt
- Westonbirt Arboretum on Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/pages/Westonbirt-Arboretum/61288111349
- Westonbirt Arboretum on Twitter – https://twitter.com/WestonbirtArb
- The Forestry Commission – http://www.forestry.gov.uk/
- Westonbirt Photographs – http://www.flickr.com/photos/davewalker5/sets/72157637610080263/
- Wallace and Gromit – http://www.wallaceandgromit.com