Susan Barron indulges in a day of botanical exploration…
Batsford Arboretum is a spectacular 95-acre botanical garden with a collection of over 3000 trees, including Japanese maples, magnolias, flowering cherries, giant redwoods and pines. You might therefore imagine it to be quite gloomy, as well as largely inaccessible for people with mobility issues, but this is not actually the case. There are many open areas and about a third of the garden is actually very easily navigable.
There are some stretches that have steeper gradients, but it’s possible to hire a Tramper all-terrain mobility scooter onsite if you’re signed up to the Countryside Mobility hire scheme by telephoning ahead of your visit. At the time of writing, you can temporarily join the scheme for four weeks by paying £2.50; a 12-month annual membership is priced at £10.00. As well as being excellent value, it will ensure that virtually all of the Batsford Arboretum site will be accessible to you. Further details of the scheme can be found at www.countrysidemobility.org.
As you would expect in a large country garden, the terrain is a mixture of tarmac paths and compressed gravel trails. It is thus advisable to bring boots or wellies, since some of the trails can get a bit muddy in wet weather. Visitors are provided with a map upon arrival, which highlights special points of interest. There are plenty of strategically placed benches dotted around the arboretum, which provide somewhere to sit, rest and take in a series of pleasant views.
With so much see throughout the garden, it is easy to spend a full day there. The garden’s sights include small waterfalls, a lake with a well-directed disabled route, a hermit’s cave, a traditionally-styled Japanese Rest House and some rather charming statues of Japanese deer, plus as an intriguing large Buddha statue.
For many, it will be the spectacular trees and plants that provide the main focal point. Since the Arboretum is open all year round, there is plenty to see across different seasons. The summer months provide a plethora of wild flowers, such as native orchids and foxgloves, as well as shrub roses and flowering dogwoods. In autumn, the maple trees, cherries and many other spectacular deciduous trees are clothed in gold, russet, red, purple and orange. Winter brings snowdrops, hellebores, daphne and cyclamen, whilst spring yields the flowering of spectacular magnolias, flowering cherries, daffodils, primroses and carpets of wood anemones and bluebells.
In the centre of the estate is a large, honey-coloured Cotswold stone country mansion, which looks spectacular when viewed from the lake – though it’s important to note that the house is not open to visitors. A walk past the front mansion eventually concludes at the local parish church, overlooking the pretty hamlet of Batsford.
The Arboretum site includes a well-lit and easily accessible restaurant with indoor and outdoor eating areas, both with plenty of room to get a wheelchair or scooter right up to the table. The outdoor area is set on a decked terrace with lovely views over the surrounding countryside. The restaurant counter has a shelf running its length handily positioned at wheelchair height. A range of hot and cold food is available, covering main meals, Sunday lunch, snacks and hot and cold refreshments. The nearby disabled lavatory is of a generous size, very clean and well equipped.
There are three small accessible retail outlets on site, two of which are based near the café. The largest is a well-stocked garden shop that sells plants and an assortment of garden ware; the second is a gift shop with the usual array of merchandise, while the third is a delightful antiques and curiosity shop.
Batsford Arboretum located a mile and a half outside of Moreton in Marsh in the heart of the Cotswolds, and is well signposted from the A44 Evesham to Oxford road. The large car park has ample parking space for larger vehicles, as well as 17 dedicated disabled bays close to the entrance. Access to the arboretum is via a gentle sloping ramp leading to automatic doors.
Admission is priced at £7 for adults (£6 concessions) and £3 for children aged between 4 and 15; entry is free for carers of disabled visitors. For more details, contact 01386 701 441 or visit www.batsarb.co.uk