13 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.
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?
Finchampstead Ridges, Wokingham
Finchampstead Ridges, nestled in southern Berkshire, has been in the National Trust family for over 100 years. Head to Simon’s Wood and walk the avenue of redwood Sequoia trees (also known as Wellingtonia trees), planted in 1863, see if you can spot the second century Roman Road, nicknamed the Devil’s Highway and Heat’s Pond is a pretty spot at this time of the year.
I’m not sure whether it classifies as an arboretum, but Cliveden is certainly giving good colour right now. There’s a mahoosive 376 acres to explore, but you can do as little or as much as you like. Stroll through the formal gardens, stomp through the woodland and hang out with Duke of Sutherland. Basically, there’s a lot of trees, so it’ll be a lovely autumn stroll.
The Vyne, Basingstoke
Stop off at our favourite Tudor mansion for an Insta-worthy view of the autumn leaves. American liquidambar trees set the landscape on fire with their bright red leaves that change to yellow and orange as the seasons shift. The dahlias will still be in bloom too. Call a friend, go for a leisurely walk before a cuppa or hot chocolate at the kiosk. Adult tickets £8, children £4. Dogs welcome.
Blackwater Arboretum, New Forest
Yes, we’ve mentioned the New Forest already, but it’s so vast, we couldn’t help adding it in again! Blackwater is another tree-haven in the heart of this wild expanse. Take a stroll through the forest, brought to life with fiery yellow and crimson red leaves, and spot the wooden sculptures dotted around the trees. Handy hint: it has its own car parking spaces and toilet. Free parking but £3 donation suggested. Dogs welcome.
Bolderwood Arboretum, New Forest
Spanning 566 square kilometres, the New Forest is quite frankly huge. Head to the Bolderwood Arboretum for some autumn tree gold, as the ferns turn a beautiful rusty red below. This area was originally part of the Bolderwood Lodge until 1833. Now, it’s open for hikers and bikers, plus there is the Bolderwood Deer Sanctuary viewing platform for wildlife spotting. Keep your eyes peeled for giant redwood trees, which are among some of the tallest trees in Britain. Free parking but £3 donation suggested. Dogs welcome.
Sir Harold Hillier Gardens, Romsey
Armed with a grand plan to cultivate the best garden in the UK, Sir Harold Hillier hasn’t done a bad job of it. 180 acres of trees, plants and shrubs make up this a beautiful Hampshire gem. For bright orange leaves, head to the Acer Valley where Japanese maple trees line the way. They are also developing a new Valley of Fire, which will add a dramatic, showy blast of colour to the area near the Visitor Pavilion, thanks to the North American maples and liquidambar trees. If you have the kids in tow, stomp through piles of leaves before taking them to the Wobbly Bridge. Adult tickets £11.60, children £3.10. No dogs.
Harcourt Arboretum, Nuneham Courtney, Oxon
One of my favourite local arboretums, Harcourt Arboretum has been part of Oxford Botanic Gardens since 1963 and is just six miles south of the city centre. The 130 acres are bursting with gorgeous earthy tones in Autumn – head to the Acer Glade for brick-red redwood trees, the Lime Wood for mellow yellows or the Bluebell Wood for copper tones – plus lots of wildlife including peacocks, red kites, buzzards and piglets. The Arboretum also hosts sweet events throughout the year with autumn’s offering including foraging courses, family craft days and insight tours. Adult tickets £5.45, under 16s free. No dogs allowed. Pre-booking highly recommended. obga.ox.ac.uk
Thenford Arboretum and Gardens, nr Banbury
This 70 acre estate, a short drive northwest of the market town of Brackley and east of Banbury, Oxon, surrounds an elegant Georgian house (you can’t enter, but it’s pretty to look at). Along with the landscaped gardens, the arboretum is spread across the 70 acres and features a collection of over 3,000 different trees and shrubs as well as pretty water gardens peppered throughout. There’s also a sculpture garden, rose garden and Medieval fish pond. The pristine gardens and arboretum are only open to the public for a few days a year so hotfoot it down on 17 or 23 Oct if you want to have a nosey. Tickets £16, no dogs allowed.
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
Priestfield Arboretum, Chilterns
Found within Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, near Great Missenden, this 5.2 acre arboretum has 180 types of trees and allows dogs. The site is privately owned but opens for a few select dates each year, the next and final of the year being 18 Oct. Admission £2. priestfieldarboretum.org.uk
Westonbirt National Arboretum, Tetbury
Here you’ll find over 15,000 trees, including five national tree collections which you can see from the 300 meter Treetop Walkway or along the many walking or running (erm, no thanks) trails around the Arboretum. Kids are catered for with play areas and Gruffalo sculptures hidden amongst the trees and dogs are allowed in the large Silk Wood. Peak Autumn prices apply from 3 October to 1 November, but the colour here is worth the extra cost. Adult tickets £11-15, child £4. Under 5s go free. Pre-booking essential. forestryengland.uk
Kew Gardens, London
I love Kew Gardens and used to make an annual pilgrimage here when I lived in London. It’s on the west side of the city so not too far for Bucks & Oxon dwellers too (Kew station is a five minute walk away from the gardens). There’s a 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
Winkworth Arboretum, Surrey
This 46 hectare arboretum was given to the National Trust over 60 years ago and has loads of rare trees and shrubs amongst the 1,000 varieties found in the gardens, many with berries, nuts and fruits. You’ll also find an impressive fungi selection (none of the magic variety, sorry), although the annual Fungi Foray guided tour sadly looks to be cancelled this year. Adult tickets £10, child tickets £5. Dogs welcome on short leads. Pre-booking essential. nationaltrust.org.uk/winkworth-arboretum