I took a trip to Batsford Arboretum, a Cotswold garden with an impressive tree collection and a charming array of bulbs and colour to warm the cockles on a cold February day.
Batsford is somewhere I have wanted to visit for quite a while, and it has been more prevalent to me as I drive past it daily on my commute to work. The arboretum covers around 56 acres in total and is located in the idyllic Cotswolds just outside Moreton-in-Marsh. Batsford is home to the largest private collection of trees and shrubs in the country and undoubtedly features year-round interest.
This was my first trip and so I experienced it in the winter, though there was enough to garner my interest and also point to signs to convince me I need to come back throughout the year to see it develop.
As Batsford is a dog-friendly site, providing they are on leads, it meant me and Bertie could take our two four-legged friends. So this made for a lovely family day out with our pug and our pug-Chihuahua cross in tow on a cold February afternoon. It should be noted that visitors can go to the shop, gift shop and café without having to pay the £7.95 (with gift aid) price to enter the arboretum itself.
The collection at Batsford has over 2,850 labelled specimens of trees, shrubs and plants. In February I saw an abundance of snowdrops and some fantastic specimens of daffodils and winter aconites. On this cold and dank day they provided real sparks of colour throughout the garden, while the aroma of species of Daphne located next to the winding paths could be sensed in the air. There were also quite a few examples of Hamamelis (witch hazel) that stood out while the rest of the garden sat waiting to develop when the warmer weather arrives.
While the spring bulbs are spread plentifully across the arboretum, a long border running near the garden’s entrance showcases many of the season’s delights together in one display, with snowdrops and aconites sitting alongside splendid examples of hellebores and cyclamen. I would really be interested to see how this border changes as the season’s progress and see the transition from Spring-Summer and Summer-Autumn.
Unsurprisingly Batsford really impresses with its trees, it boasts numerous pines, oaks and Sorbus as well as rarer ones such as a Davidia and some giant redwoods. While there is plenty of evergreen year-round interest, those deciduous varieties ensure you can see some good structure and skeletal form during winter and spring.
Beyond the trees in the arboretum you can enjoy some great vistas across the Cotswolds countryside, and also down onto the imposing Batsford House, which it should be noted is private and not open for visitors. The meandering paths take you on a winding journey around the arboretum and open up to look out over the hills and surrounding countryside, with views across the Evenlode Valley and beyond.
If you looked deeper into Batsford you could tell there was promise of great things to come over the course of the year. The arboretum has a lot of influence and emphasis from trees, shrubs and bamboo from the Far East. It has the National Collection of Japanese Flowering Cherries (it claims to feature an impressive 70%-plus of known cultivars) and that means the blossom is definitely going to be worth coming to see. This spring display is only going to be further complimented by the array of magnolias.
And then in autumn the Japanese maples will give a real splash of bright colour as their leaves turn into bright reds and oranges. If you picture all that then it means Batsford needs to be experienced at least two or three times per year to get the full effect – I know I plan to go back to see this spring display and also the autumn colours.
Throughout the garden you can see its Far East influence with a Japanese rest house, red oriental bridges and Far East-esque statues located throughout the arboretum. Also its bamboo collection is spread across the arboretum and bamboos in different sizes and colours bring another real touch of Asia to the Cotswolds. Batsford does boast some genuinely interesting landscaping features, such as its Victorian waterway which brings water down from high on the hills to Coldwell Lake. The watercourse has a hermit’s cave, waterfalls, islands and pools, with the islands and banks planted up with moisture-loving plants.
Batsford Arboretum is open every day of the year, closed only on Christmas Day. Along with the arboretum itself it also has a plant centre, café, and gift shop, while the Cotswold Falconry Centre, wood-turning and archery are also on the site. As mentioned earlier, it is dog-friendly provided they are on a lead. You can find out more about Batsford here.