An account of my visit to this woodland park with its nationally important collections of exotic trees, at the time of year when they are at their most glorious.
Few sights in nature warm the heart like woodland in its autumn colours. But for a truly riotous display you need to visit somewhere with a wide variety of different deciduous species – an arboretum, that is to say a woodland park based around a tree collection.
Westonbirt, in Gloucestershire, is one of the largest and most important arboretums in Britain. Covering 600 acres, one can wander for hours on the 17 miles of paths, taking in the 16,000 trees – of which 3,000 are specially planted specimens. And although it is very well visited, it is large enough that one can choose between following the best-trod paths and enjoying the presence of other visitors or finding some peaceful spot with no-one else around.
The arboretum is in two parts: the wood parkland of the Old Arboretum which was laid out by the Holford family in the 19th century (though it is in Forestry Commission ownership now) and the more regular managed woodland of Silk Wood.
The mainstays of the autumn display are the maple trees, the leaves of which vary from yellows, through orangey reds to almost unbelievably rich and deep crimsons. The Old Arboretum has many maples dotted around, two of which I’ve illustrated in my photos below.
Photo 1: Japanese Maple (photograph by author)
Photo 2: Full Moon Maple (photograph by author)
Photo 3: Full Moon Maple, close-up of leaves (photograph by author)
The Full Moon Maple was especially spectacular, caught at just the moment when its leaves varied through quite a spectrum of golds and reds. It was splendid, also, to see so many other people, children especially, enjoying the trees.
Continued in part two…